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Full text of "The Ordnance Department : on beachhead and battlefront"

UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 

The Technical Services 

THE ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT: 

ON BEACHHEAD AND 

BATTLEFRONT 

by 
Lida Mayo 



i< p.- 

' 99! 




MIUTAfiy INCTiWCTION 



^ <SUn... / 






CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY 

UNITED STATES ARMY 

WASHINGTON, D.C., 1991 



Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 67-60000 



First Printed 1968— CMH Pub 10-1 



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office 
Washington, D.C. 20402 



UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 

Stetson Conn, General Editor 



Advisory Committee 

(As of 17 June 1966) 



Fred C. Cole 
Washington and Lee University 

James A. Field, Jr. 
Swarthmore College 

Ernest R. May 
Harvard University 

Earl Pomeroy 
University of Oregon 

Charles P. Roland 
Tulane University 



Lt. Gen. August Schomburg 
Industrial College of the Armed Forces 

Maj. Gen. B. E. Powell 
U.S. Continental Army Command 

Brig. Gen. Jaroslav T. Folda 
U.S. Army War College 

Brig. Gen. Robert C. Taber 
U.S. Army Command and General Staff College 

Col. Thomas E. Griess 
United States Military Academy 

Theodore Ropp 
Duke University 



Office of the Chief of Military History 
Brig. Gen. Hal C. Pattison, Chief of Military History 

Chief Historian Stetson Conn 

Chief, Histories Division Col. Paul P. Hinkley 

Chief, Editorial and Graphics Division Col. Joseph S. Coulter 

Editor in Chief Joseph R. Friedman 



. . . to Those Who Served 



Foreword 



For the righting man in time of war, the crucible that proves or disproves 
his training and his theories is combat with the enemy. So it is too with those 
whose milieu is not the drill field but the drawing board, not the staff college but 
the proving ground, those who design, develop, and maintain the weapons, 
munitions, and vehicles of war. The crucible for the Ordnance Department, like 
the individual fighting man, is the battlefield. 

In previous volumes in the Ordnance Department subseries of The Technical 
Services in the series UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II, his- 
torians have told the preliminary stories, the complex, often frustrating saga of 
planning munitions for war and of procuring and getting them to the troops 
who use them. This, the third and final volume in the subseries, tells the climax 
of the Ordnance role in World War II, the story of how the vast armory and its 
administrators fared in combat. 

In presenting this story of Ordnance in the overseas theaters, Mrs. Mayo has 
concentrated logically on Ordnance at the level of the army headquarters, for 
from this level munitions and fighting equipment flowed directly to the user. 
While giving some attention to all theaters involved in the global story of 
Ordnance administration, she has concentrated on the three main theaters as 
representative of the problems, the improvisations, the shortcomings, the achieve- 
ments worldwide. 

From the dispatch of the first American observers to embattled Britain in 
1941 to the last gunshots on Pacific islands in 1945, it is an exciting story as 
befits the vital contribution of the tools of war to success or failure in battle. 

Washington, D.C. HAL C. PATTISON 

17 June 1966 Brigadier General, USA 

Chief of Military History 



The Author 



Lida Mayo, a graduate of Randolph- Macon Woman's College, served as 
historian with the Military Air Transport Service from 1946 to 1950, when she 
joined the Ordnance Historical Branch, becoming its chief in June 1959. In 1962, 
when Ordnance historical activities were transferred to the Office of the Chief 
of Military History, she became a senior historian on its staff. She contributed 
substantially to The Ordnance Department: Planning Munitions for War 
( 1 9v55) 5 first of the three Ordnance volumes published in this series, and was 
coauthor of the second, The Ordnance Department: Procurement and Supply 
( i960). Other published works to her credit are Henry Clay (New York, 1943, 
and London, 1944) and Rustics in Rebellion (Chapel Hill, 1950). Her articles 
have appeared in American Heritage, Virginia Quarterly Review, Encyclopaedia 
Britannica, and numerous professional journals. Mrs. Mayo is presently at work 
on another volume in the series UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR 
II: The Corps of Engineers: The War Against Germany. 



Preface 



On a July evening in 1942 in the wilds of New Guinea, a sixteen-year-old 
native Papuan houseboy named Gibson Duluvina proffered to Australian war 
correspondent Osmar White some penetrating remarks on the writing of history. 
They illustrate the author's dilemma in planning On Beachhead and Battlefront, 
the third and last volume in the Ordnance series. 

White, who was Gibson's taubada (master), took the boy along when he 
went from Port Moresby far into the interior to cover guerrilla operations against 
the Japanese from the wrecked gold mining town of Wau. One evening in an 
abandoned cottage overshadowed by a mountain on whose slopes birds of 
paradise were feeding, White began to question Gibson about the history of his 
tribe. He got nowhere. Gibson remembered an old woman in his village who 
had been a girl when the first white man's ship came to Port Moresby, but he did 
not think her tales very interesting. Beyond that he knew no history. 

"Taubada," he said suddenly, "white people say that they know just what 
happened a thousand years ago. Is it true?" White explained that it was all 
written down; that history had been written for thousands of years. Gibson was 
silent in deep thought. Then he said, "Taubada, I can write." "Yes, Gibson, 
I know." He wrote a beautiful copperplate hand taught him in a mission school. 
"You write very well." 

"Taubada, when I write, it is too hard very much to write the truth. To 
write the words is hard, but I could never write all the words to tell all the truth. 
To write at all I must make all the things seem easy. Then, when it is written, 
it is not all the truth M1 

To write all the words to tell all the truth about Ordnance overseas opera- 
tions in World War II has been impossible, at least in the confines of one volume. 
Therefore I have concentrated on the Mediterranean, European, and Southwest 
Pacific theaters, covering the Central Pacific only as background for Okinawa 
and omitting entirely, except for passing references, the South Pacific and China- 
Burma-India theaters. Nor have I attempted coverage of Ordnance operations 
in Alaska or the Caribbean and Atlantic bases, except for a brief section on early 
planning for Iceland. If I had been able to include all overseas theaters and 
commands, this might have been a better book; on the other hand, it might 
have been a worse one, certainly bulky and probably repetitious, since most of 
the Ordnance problems are exemplified in the areas I have covered. 



Osmar White, Green Armor (New York: W. W. Norton, 1945), pp. 152-53. 



In those areas, the story has been centered in the main around the Ordnance 
officer at army level. After corps was relieved of administrative responsibilities 
early in the war, support to the combat forces flowed from army. Only from the 
point of view of the Ordnance officers of the various armies have I described 
Communications Zone Ordnance operations. For more detail on such operations 
in the European theater, the reader is referred to Roland G. Ruppenthal's two- 
volume Logistical Support of the Armies in UNITED STATES ARMY IN 
WORLD WAR II. 

On Beachhead and Battlefront was begun under contract by the Ordnance 
Corps with the Bureau of Social Science Research of The American University. 
Two years later the Ordnance Corps terminated the contract and transferred 
the project to the Historical Branch, Office of the Chief of Ordnance. In the 
summer of 1962 when the Office, Chief of Ordnance was abolished, the Office, 
Chief of Military History took over project and author. Under all these auspices, 
I have been assisted by a number of able people: in the contract phase 
by Dr. Stanley L. Falk as junior historian on the project and Dr. Morris R. Short 
as administrative assistant; in the Ordnance phase by Mrs. Irene House as 
research historian and Mrs. Feril Cummings as administrative assistant; in the 
OCMH phase by members of the General Reference Branch, particularly Miss 
Hannah Zeidlik. Throughout all phases the exploration of the vast resources of 
the World War II Reference Branch, National Archives and Records Service, 
Alexandria, Virginia, has been made both profitable and pleasant by the efforts 
of Mrs. Caroline Moore, Mrs. Hazel Ward, and above all, Mrs. Lois C. Aldridge, 
who has not only been a discerning guide through the maze of records but a 
valued adviser and friend. At the Military Records Branch, Federal Records 
Center, Mrs. Virginia Nestor has been invariably helpful. 

The book was completed under the direction of Brig. Gen. Hal C. Pattison, 
Chief of Military History, and Dr. Stetson Conn, Chief Historian, to both of 
whom I owe a great deal for wise counsel and unfailing support. Others in 
OCMH to whom much is due for careful review of the entire manuscript and 
detailed criticisms that have saved the author from many errors of fact and style 
are the late Dr. John Miller, jr., Col. Albert W. Jones, Mr. Charles B. Mac- 
Donald, and Miss Mary Ann Bacon. The illustrations were selected by Miss 
Ruth A. Phillips; the maps prepared by Mr. Billy C. Mossman; and the volume 
was shepherded through the editorial process by Mrs. Loretto C. Stevens and 
Mrs. Frances R. Burdette. Mrs. Muriel Southwick prepared the index. 

Among "Those Who Served" I am grateful to many who read and com- 
mented upon all or parts of the manuscript including the wartime Chief of 
Ordnance, Lt. Gen. Levin H. Campbell, Jr., the Ordnance officers of First, 
Third, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, Tenth, and Fifteenth Armies, and the chief 
Ordnance officers of the European and Southwest Pacific theaters. Numerous 
other participants, both within and outside Ordnance, gave generously of their 
time in interviews and made personal papers available. 



To Maj. Gen. John B. Medaris I am particularly indebted for a statement 
that illustrates how vital was Ordnance support on beachhead and battlefront: 
"An army can fight on short rations and with ragged clothes, but when an army 
is without ammunition and guns it is no longer an army." 

For interpretations made and conclusions drawn, as well as for any errors 
of omission or commission, the author alone is responsible. 

Washington, D.C. LIDA MAYO 

17 June 1966 



Contents 



Chapter Page 

I. THE MILITARY MISSIONS 3 

The Special Observer Group 3 

Ordnance Plans for Iceland 7 

The Lend-Lease Missions to the Middle East and China ... 9 

Initiation Into Coalition Warfare 15 

II. MIDDLE EAST KALEIDOSCOPE 17 

The OMETs 18 

Militarization . ' 20 

The Desert Proving Ground 23 

Applying the Lessons 33 

III. EARLY ARRIVALS IN AUSTRALIA 34 

The Pensacola Convoy 34 

Last-Ditch Efforts To Aid Mac Arthur 37 

Planning the American Base 38 

Port Operations 41 

IV. THE BASE IN AUSTRALIA 44 

Rounding Up Weapons and Ammunition 45 

Ship Arming 46 

Ordnance Forces Spread Thin 48 

Geelong and the Ordnance Service Centers 52 

Working With the Australians 54 

USAAS Ordnance 55 

Midsummer 1942: New Responsibilities 57 

Preparations To Support the Move Northward 60 

Responsibility for Motor Vehicles 61 

V. SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN 65 

The Ordnance Officer Arrives at Port Moresby 66 

The Crisis in Mid-September 68 

The Sea Route to Buna 69 

The Attack Begins — and Stalls 73 

I Corps Takes Over 76 



Chapter Page 
V. SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN— Continued 

The Forward Bases 82 

Captured Japanese Materiel 85 

"A Poor Man's War" . . 85 

VI. THE BASE IN THE BRITISH ISLES 88 

Ordnance Troops in Magnet 91 

Planning for Bolero 93 

Preparations for Torch 101 

VII. ORAN AND THE PROVISIONAL ORDNANCE GROUP ... 109 

Tactical Plans 109 

Ordnance Service: The Group Concept 112 

The Landing at Oran 114 

The Provisional Ordnance Group 118 

The Move to Northern Tunisia 121 

Planning for Central Tunisia 123 

VIII. WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 128 

The Supply Crisis 132 

"Miracles of Maintenance" 134 

Niblo Leaves II Corps 136 

Supporting the Thrust Through Gafsa 138 

The March to Bizcrte 142 

"The End of the Beginning" 145 

IX. THE SHORT CAMPAIGN IN SICILY 152 

Plans for Husky 153 

New Materiel 155 

The Invasion Fleets Depart 158 

The Landings 160 

Colonel Nixon's Problems 164 

"A Black Eye on Ordnance" 166 

The Evidence at the End 169 

X. SALERNO AND THE GROWTH OF FIFTH ARMY 

ORDNANCE SERVICE 172 

Niblo's Group Organization 174 

"Hell in the Dunes" 177 

"Uninterrupted" Ordnance Service 182 

The Search for Better Organization 187 



Chapter Page 

XI. ANZIO AND ARTILLERY 191 

The Ammunition Dumps 196 

Anzio Annie and the Clamor for Heavier Artillery 199 

The 240-mm. Howitzer and the 8-inch Gun 201 

"Balanced Artillery Firepower" 206 

XII. ROME AND "THE FORGOTTEN FRONT" 209 

The Allies Enter Rome 211 

"The Forgotten Front" 213 

Lessons of the Mediterranean Campaigns 213 

XIII. ARMING FOR THE GRAND CAMPAIGN 219 

New Methods of Supply 220 

Motor Vehicle Assembly 223 

Preparations for a Short Sea Voyage 224 

Bomb Disposal 231 

The Ordnance Plan for Neptune 232 

"The Best-Equipped Fighting Force" 236 

XIV. THE FAR SHORE IN NORMANDY 240 

Omaha Beach 240 

Utah Beach 247 

Frustration in the Hedgerows 248 

Expansion After Cobra: Third Army 258 

XV. THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 262 

The Campaign in Brittany 266 

To the Seine and Beyond: First Army Ordnance 268 

Third Army Ordnance in the Dash to the Moselle 275 

Seventh Army in Southern France 283 

XVI. AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 294 

The Supply Famine 294 

First Army Improvises 298 

Frustration at the Ports and Depots 301 

The Battle of the Ardennes 304 

Bastogne and Third Army Ordnance 313 

XVII. LESSONS OF THE ROER AND THE ARDENNES 318 

Ninth Army Ordnance 318 

The Tank Duels on the Roer Plain 325 

Attempts To Provide a Better Tank 328 

The Zebra Mission of February 1945 332 



Chapter Page 

XVIII. VICTORY IN GERMANY 339 

Supplies for the Last Campaign 339 

Across the Rhine 342 

Captured Enemy Materiel 346 

Ordnance Technical Intelligence 348 

After V-E Day ... 349 

XIX. FROM PAPUA TO MOROTAI 353 

Developing the Bases 357 

New Weapons for Jungle Warfare 360 

The Move Northward Begins With Dexterity 362 

Support of Brewer in the Admiralties 368 

Hollandia and Aitape 369 

The Geelvink Bay Operations: Wakde, Biak, Noemfoor .... 377 

The Sansapor Area in the Vogelkop 383 

Morotai 383 

XX. THE PHILIPPINES: LEYTE 387 

The Ordnance Navy: The Shop and Depot Barges 388 

Planning for Leyte 392 

A-Day and After 396 

The Costly Base at Leyte 402 

Eighth Army Ordnance Arrives 403 

Success on Mindoro 404 

XXI. THE PHILIPPINES: LUZON 407 

Ordnance Plans for Luzon 408 

Supporting the Lingayen Landings 411 

The Advance Inland 417 

Clearing the Visayan Passages 426 

XXII. THE PHILIPPINES: THE SOUTHERN ISLANDS 429 

Palawan and Zamboanga 431 

The Central Visayan Islands 432 

Mindanao 435 

XXIII. BOLDLY AIMING AT OKINAWA 443 

A Strongly Fortified Island 444 

The Advance in the Central Pacific 444 

The Hawaiian Base 445 

Tenth Army Plans and Preparations 447 

The Landings on Kerama Retto 453 



Chapter Page 

XXIV. CRESCENDO ON OKINAWA 456 

The Landings on Hagushi 456 

Supporting the Assault on the Shuri Defenses 460 

Siege Warfare With a Difference: The Cave Positions .... 461 

The Ordnance Build-up in the Mud 465 

Supply by Water 467 

Bloody Finale 470 

Preparing for Japan 472 

XXV. THE GUNS FALL SILENT 475 

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 481 

GLOSSARY 483 

CODE NAMES 489 

BASIC MILITARY MAP SYMBOLS 492 

INDEX 499 



Charts 



No. 



1. The U.S. Army Forces in Australia Ordnance Office, May 1942 ... 56 

2. Early Command and Staff Organization of ETOUSA Established by ETO 

General Order 19, 20 July 1942 95 

3. Organization of the Ordnance Section, AFHQ, November 1942 .... 126 

4. Ordnance Group Organization for First U.S. Army, 15 August 1944 . . 256 



Maps 



1. Lines of Communication in French North Africa 110 

2. Omaha Beach and Beach Maintenance Area 241 

3. Utah Beach and Beach Maintenance Area 246 

4. Tactical Progress, 25 July-1 2 September 1944 264 

5. First Army Ammunition Installations, 6 June-16 December 1944 . . . 272 



Illustrations 

Page 

Capt. George B. Jarrett 23 

U.S. 90-mm. and German 88-mm. Antiaircraft Guns 26 

Two Sherman Tanks Moving Toward the Front 28 

Bazooka 30 

The Priest, a Self-Propelled Howitzer 32 

Col. Jonathan L. Holman 39 

Convoy of Trucks Near Mount Isa, Queensland 52 

Ordnance Warehouse, Australia 59 

Port Moresby, 1942 67 

Part of the Trawler Fleet, Port Moresby 70 

Japanese Bunker, Buna 75 

Ammunition by an English Roadside 97 

Trailer Supply Unit in England 105 

Brig. Gen. Urban Niblo 113 

Jeep Headed Inland, Algeria 115 

Oran Harbor 118 

Antiquated French Equipment, Algeria 130 

Ammunition Stored Under Trees, Tunisia 131 

Strafed Supply Truck, Tunisia 133 

Tiger Tank, Tunisia 139 

Landing at Gela, Sicily 160 

DUKW's in Ship-to-Shore Operation, Sicily 162 

155-mm. Gun 168 

Ammo Joe 185 

The Anzio-Nettuno Area 193 

Tankdozer Used To Fight Ammunition Dump Fires, Anzio 199 

Anzio Annie 201 

240-mm. Howitzer, Italy 203 

Mauldin Cartoon 207 

M4 Tank Pulling Battle Sleds 212 

Panther Tank 214 

Brig. Gen. Henry B. Sayler 220 

Hooded 105-mm. Howitzers, England 225 

Testing Waterproofed 34-ton Truck, England 229 

Testing an Amphibious Tank 230 

Col. John B. Medaris 233 

Rhino Ferry, Normandy Beach 242 

Ammunition Dump Behind Omaha Beach 245 

Col. Nelson M. Lynde, Jr 250 

The Fire at Depot 101, France 252 

Tank With Hedgerow Cutter 253 

Tank Transporter, France 257 



Page 

Shells Stacked by Type, France ' . 261 

Lt. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., and Col. Thomas H. Nixon 277 

Heavy Maintenance Company, Verdun 279 

Duckbill Extensions on Tank Tracks 281 

Col. William C. Bliss, S. Sgt. Erling N. Salvesen, and Technicians 

John E. Pavlik and Harcourt W. Swanson 310 

Tanks Near Bastogne 315 

Col. Walter W. Warner 319 

Replacing Tracks on a Sherman Tank 323 

M36 Tank Destroyers on Dug-in Ramps 324 

Maj. Gen. Gladeon M. Barnes 334 

Convoy of Pershing Tanks 335 

Berryman Cartoon 337 

Ordnance Conference in Paris, February 1945 340 

LCM's Being Moved to the Rhine 345 

Colonel Medaris Examining Captured German Weapons 346 

Col. Philip G. Blackmore 354 

Headquarters Office, Base Ordnance, Oro Bay, 1943 360 

Pulling a Truck From a Mudhole, Morotai 385 

Unloading Supplies, Leyte 398 

Col. Ward E. Becker 403 

Lined Up To Pass Ammunition Ashore, Luzon 414 

Sherman Tank and Japanese Medium Tank 423 

LCM on the Way to Fort Pikit, Mindanao 439 

Col. Robert W. Daniels 449 

Long Toms 458 

Signal Corps Men in a Weasel, Okinawa 466 

Cave and Flame-Throwing Tank, Okinawa 469 

All illustrations are from Department of Defense files except the following: Cap- 
tain Jarrett, page 23, Jarrett Collection; General Holman, page 39, Holman Personal 
Files; Port Moresby, page 67, Australian War Memorial; Mauldin cartoon, page 207, 
Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.; Colonel Medaris, page 233, Medaris Personal Files; 
Colonel Lynde, page 250, and Ordnance Conference, page 340, Lynde Personal Files; 
General Patton and Colonel Nixon, page 277, Nixon Personal Files; Colonel Warner, 
page 319, Warner Personal Files; Berryman cartoon, page 337, Evening Star, Wash- 
ington, D.C.; Colonel Blackmore, page 354, Blackmore Personal Files; Colonel Becker, 
page 403, Becker Personal Files; and Colonel Daniels, page 449, Daniels Personal Files. 



xix 



THE ORDNANCE DEPARTMENT: 
ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



CHAPTER I 



The Military Missions 



Late in May 1941 London celebrated 
War Weapons Week. Bands played in parks 
bright with tulips; there were parades in 
the spring sunshine. War Weapons Week, 
said the London Times on 20 May, was "a 
crushing reply to the Luftwaffe." These 
were brave words. On 10 May there had 
been a bad air raid, more than 3,000 per- 
sons killed or injured, 2,000 fires started, 
and the House of Commons destroyed. 
There was ever present the real fear of an 
invasion of Great Britain, and elsewhere 
the Empire was in danger. The Germans 
were in possession of the greater part of 
Europe, had occupied Tripoli and Libya, 
and were threatening Egypt, the Suez 
Canal, and the Near East. 

The military leaders in London painted 
a very black picture to the U.S. Army's 
ranking Air officer, Maj. Gen. Henry H. 
Arnold, who was in England for talks with 
British Air Chief Marshal Sir Charles 
Portal. Arnold did not overlook the pos- 
sibility that they were deliberately trying 
to paint the picture as black as they could 
in order to influence the President of the 
United States, but he concluded that they 
were really desperate, "so desperate that 
for once their cloak of conservatism was 
cast aside; their inbred policy of under- 
statement thrown into the discard. They 
needed help, needed it badly, and were 
frank to admit it." 1 



1 Henry H. Arnold, Global Mission (New York: 
Harper & Brothers), 1949, pp. 215, 235. 



Yet War Weapons Week was not just 
a valiant gesture. Weapons were on the 
way. Deliveries on cash contracts placed 
by the British in the United States were at 
last coming through in volume; shipments 
in March, April, May, and June 1941 were 
two and a half times what they had been 
in the last four months of 1940. And these 
stocks of tanks and trucks and aircraft 
would eventually — though not immedi- 
ately — be tremendously augmented by 
transfers made possible after the passage 
of the Lend-Lease Act on n March 1941. 
The United States' special representative 
for lend-lease, Mr. W. Averell Harriman, 
had been in London since mid-March. 2 

By May, Londoners were reading en- 
couraging reports on the climate of opinion 
in America. The publisher of the Saturday 
Evening Post, hitherto isolationist, was 
quoted in the London Times on 19 May 
as saying that the Post had abandoned iso- 
lation; that the United States was "in the 
war now. We are like a man who has 
jumped off a springboard and hasn't yet 
touched water. He isn't wet, but he hasn't 
a chance of getting back on the spring- 
board again." 

The Special Observer Group 

Behind the scenes, British leaders had 
heartening news of a secret and very im- 

2 Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., Lend-Lease: Weapon 
for Victory (New York; Macmillan, 1944), p. 99- 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



portant development in Anglo-American 
relations — an unprecedented collaboration 
in war planning between a neutral and a 
belligerent nation. Late in January 1941 
at the suggestion of Admiral Harold R. 
Stark, the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, 
representatives of the U.S. Army Chief of 
Staff and the Chief of Naval Operations 
and of the British Chiefs of Staff had be- 
gun in Washington a series of meetings 
known as the American-British Conversa- 
tions (ABC) to plan joint operations in 
the event the United States entered the 
war. 3 

The conferees agreed that the United 
States, like Great Britain, had more to fear 
from Germany than from any of the other 
great powers, and that if the United States 
entered the war the earliest American oper- 
ations on foreign soil should take place in 
the North Atlantic area. American air 
forces would be sent to Great Britain to 
help the Royal Air Force bomb Germany. 
The first U.S. ground forces to go overseas 
after Mobilization Day would be used to 
garrison Iceland and to guard American 
air and naval bases in the British Isles. 



11 Unless otherwise indicated, the material in this 
chapter is based on the following volumes in 
UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II: 
Stetson Conn, Rose C. Engelman, and Byron Fair- 
child, Guarding the United States and Its Outposts 
(Washington, 1964); Richard M. Leighton and 
Robert W. Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, 
1940-1943 (Washington, 1955); Maurice Matloff 
and Edwin M. Snell, Strategic Planning for Coali- 
tion Warfare, 1941-1942 (Washington, 1953); T. 
H. Vail Motter, The Persian Corridor and Aid to 
Russia (Washington, 1952); Charles F. Romanus 
and Riley Sunderland, Stilwell's Mission to China 
(Washington, 1953) ; Roland G. Ruppenthal, Logis- 
tical Support of the Armies, Volume I : May 1941- 
September 1944 (Washington, 1953). The Matloff 
and Snell volume, Strategic Planning for Coalition 
Warfare, has been used most extensively. 



The Iceland garrison would protect convoys 
from America and release British troops 
for service in the Middle East and Mediter- 
ranean — -"the hinge," according to Prime 
Minister Winston S. Churchill, "on which 
our ultimate victory turned." 4 

In order to facilitate continuous plan- 
ning and co-ordination, the conferees 
agreed to exchange military missions at 
once. To head the American mission, Gen- 
eral George C. Marshall, Chief of Staff of 
the Army, selected an Air Corps officer be- 
cause the first units to be sent overseas in 
case of war would be primarily antiaircraft 
and Air Corps. The man was Maj. Gen. 
James E. Chaney, who had been sent to 
observe the Battle of Britain in 1940. His 
chief of staff was also an Air Corps officer, 
Brig. Gen. Joseph T. McNarney. The rest 
of the mission consisted of fifteen officers, 
including five representing the General 
Staff and one each from the Ordnance 
Department, the Corps of Engineers, and 
the Quartermaster, Signal, and Medical 
Corps. 

Because of delicate considerations of 
neutrality, the true nature of the mission 
was disguised. General Chaney was desig- 
nated Special Army Observer, London, 
and was responsible directly to the Chief 
of Staff. His organization was called the 
Special Observer Group (SPOBS). When 
the members arrived in London by air via 
Lisbon between 16 and 29 May, wearing 
civilian dress, Londoners might easily have 
taken them for part of the expanding staff 
of the American Embassy. They were 
housed on the top floor of the Dorchester 
Hotel in rooms that were pleasant though 



4 Winston S. Churchill, The Second World War: 
The Grand Alliance (Boston: Houghton Mifflin 
Company, 1950), p. 5. 



THE MILITARY MISSIONS 



rather uncomfortably exposed to bombs. 5 

The Ordnance member of SPOBS was 
one of the last of the group to arrive. He 
was Lt. Col. John W. Coffey, a sandy-haired 
man of medium build with a ruddy face 
and a pleasant manner. Executive to the 
chief of Field Service at the time of his 
appointment to SPOBS, he had been se- 
lected by the General Staff without referral 
to Maj. Gen. Charles M. Wesson, Chief 
of Ordnance, or Brig. Gen. James K. Grain, 
chief of Field Service, an unusual proce- 
dure, but Generals Wesson and Crain did 
not object to the appointment since they 
considered him an extremely competent 
officer. 6 With six other members of the 
group, Coffey flew to Lisbon, where he was 
held up several days waiting for a seat on 
one of the crowded flights to London. 7 

When he arrived in London Coffey 
found that SPOBS headquarters, the first 
two floors of a bombed-out apartment 
house at 18-20 Grosvenor Square, was not 
quite ready for occupancy but that Gen- 
eral Chaney and other early arrivals had 
been meeting with British military leaders, 
explaining the peculiar nature of the Spe- 
cial Observer Group and laying the ground- 
work for liaison between members of the 
group and the British Chiefs of Staff 
Organization and Service Departments. 
The conferees agreed on the basic func- 
tion of SPOBS: to insure that the machin- 
ery would be ready for a smooth, rapid, 

5 [Henry G. Elliott], The Predecessor Commands, 
SPOBS and USAFBI, pt. I of The Administrative 
and Logistical History of the ETO, Hist Div 
USFET, 1946 (hereafter cited as The Predecessor 
Commands), MS, OCMH, pp. 20-28. 

( 1 ) Interv with Maj Gen James K. Crain, 26 
Oct 54. (2) Min, Wesson Conference, 5 May 4:, 
OHF. As Chief of Ordnance, General Wesson held 
regular 1 1 o'clock conferences with his staff during 
the 1940-42 period. 

7 Memo, Maj Gen John E. Dahlquist, 15 Jul 4.5, 
Elliot Notes, Admin 322B. 



changeover from peace to war if the Uni- 
ted States declared war. In discussions on 
the conduct of the war in general, the 
British revealed that they had four main 
objectives. First and most vital was defense 
of the British Isles and the North Atlantic 
shipping lanes; second in importance were 
Singapore and the sea routes to Australia, 
New Zealand, and the East Indies; third 
were ocean routes all over the world; and 
fourth was bolstering the British position 
in the Middle East and the Mediterra- 
nean. 8 

On Monday following Colonel Coffey's 
arrival, representatives of SPOBS and the 
British War Office agreed that specific 
aspects of the ABC-i war plan and Rain- 
bow 5, the American implementing war 
plan, would be settled by four committees: 
one to plan personnel, discipline, welfare, 
and medical matters; a second to tackle 
problems of accommodation, bases, main- 
tenance, and movement; a third to handle 
communication; and a fourth to cope with 
antiaircraft defenses and the coast defense 
of Iceland. General Chaney assigned Colo- 
nel Coffey to the second and fourth com- 
mittees. Committee meetings began the 
next day, 4 June, and on 5 June Colonel 
Coffey inspected the British ordnance de- 
pot at Greenford, reporting that British 
weapons seemed heavier and possibly stur- 
dier than American, but that American 
equipment was "more compact and mod- 



3 ( 1 ) Ltr, Maj. Gen Harold M. McClelland to 
Maj Roland G. Ruppenthal, 9 Jul 46, Folder, 
SPOBS Letters 1946, OCMH. (2) [William F. 
Sprague] SPOBS: The Special Observer Group 
Prior to the Activation of the European Theater of 
Operations, October 1944 (hereafter cited as 
Sprague History), pp. 17-19, 23-26, Admin 323A. 
(3) Ltr, Chaney to Marshall, 18 Jun 41, WPD 
4402-141. 

° Sprague History, pp. 30-33. 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



The Special Observer Group found that 
there were many differences between the 
British and the American systems of sup- 
ply, even in terminology. In the British 
Army the word ordnance traditionally 
meant almost everything needed to equip 
a soldier, not only weapons and ammuni- 
tion but clothing and other gear as well. 10 
The term quartermaster was even broad- 
er: the Quartermaster General was the 
agent who supplied everything. He was 
responsible for logistics just as the Chief 
of the General Staff was responsible for 
operations. Under him the supply services 
were organized along functional rather than 
commodity lines. 

The Royal Army Ordnance Corps 
(RAOC) was "the storeholding corps," 
responsible for the receipt, storage, and 
issue of all supplies except fuel and rations 
and specialist items of the Royal Engineers 
and the Royal Medical Corps. It also in- 
spected ammunition and made repairs. The 
Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) was 
responsible for transporting supplies by 
motor truck, for storing and issuing fuel 
and rations, and for performing some main- 
tenance. The Royal Engineers was the work 
service, constructing buildings and sharing 
maintenance and repair responsibility with 
RAOC and RASC. None of these three 
supply services had anything to do with 
procurement or design. 11 

The British had no organization similar 
to the U.S. Army's Ordnance Department, 



10 Maj. Gen. A. Forbes, A History of the Army 
Ordnance Services (London: Nedicia Society, Ltd., 
1929), III. 

11 Foreign Logistical Organizations and Methods, 
a Report for the Secretary of the Army, 15 October 
1947 (hereafter cited as Foreign Logistical Organi- 
zations), pp. 171-77, U168U5, TICAF. The Royal 
Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), a 
maintenance agency, was not formed until October 
1942- 



which designed, procured, and supplied all 
armament. The U.S. Army Ordnance De- 
partment's Technical Staff was responsible 
for research and development, its Industrial 
Service for procurement, and its Field Serv- 
ice for supply. The Ordnance Department 
maintained its own manufacturing arsenals 
where in peacetime the art of the armorer 
was kept alive. 12 The British Army did not 
control either the design or the procure- 
ment of its weapons. All military stores 
were designed and procured by the Min- 
istry of Supply, an organization entirely 
separate from the War Office and staffed 
largely with civilians. American officers 
noted that within the ministry the author- 
ity for research and development was wide- 
ly divided among many offices, a fact that 
made it difficult for the British Government 
to reach quick and sound decisions on vital 
projects, and that there was confusion, 
duplication, and conflict of interest be- 
tween the procuring and using services. 13 
It was perhaps natural for American 
Ordnance officers at first to look with a 
critical eye on the British method of sup- 
plying weapons, so different from their 
own. But as time went on, they came to 
see that the complex mechanism had sav- 
ing features that made it work. Most im- 
portant of these were the typically British 
administrative system of interlocking com- 
mittees to obtain co-ordination and the 
British spirit of co-operation. 14 



12 Constance McL. Green, Harry C. Thomson, and 
Peter C. Roots, The Ordnance Department: Plan- 
ning Munitions for War, UNITED STATES 
ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1955), 
ch. IV. 

13 ( 1 ) Foreign Logistical Organizations, pp. 159- 
69. (2) Memo, Brig Gen Gladeon M. Barnes, Chief 
Tech Div, for Maj Gen Levin H. Campbell, Jr., 
CofOrd, 3 Sep 42, sub: Report of United States 
Technical Mission to Great Britain, O.O. 350.05/ 
1243. 

14 Foreign Logistical Organizations, p. 169. 



THE MILITARY MISSIONS 



Ordnance Plans for Iceland 

The SPOBS-British liaison committees 
had scarcely begun the work of indoctrina- 
tion and co-ordination when a cable from 
the United States turned their attention to 
Iceland. On 24 May England's largest 
and fastest capital ship, H.M.S. Hood, was 
sunk in the North Atlantic by the German 
battleship Bismarck in a howling spring 
storm of snow and rain. German ships, U- 
boats, and aircraft swarmed in and over 
the waters between Greenland and Iceland. 
The news a few days later that the people 
of Iceland had overwhelmingly voted to 
sever the last ties with the Danish king and 
set up a republic brought clearly to the 
minds of experienced observers the pos- 
sibility that the new nation might move 
closer to America. 15 

On 27 May President Franklin D. Roose- 
velt in a radio broadcast said that the war 
was "approaching the brink of the Western 
Hemisphere." Attacks on shipping along 
the North Atlantic convoy route presented 
an actual military danger to America, he 
continued, and the German occupation of 
Iceland or bases in Greenland would bring 
war close to American shores. Repeating 
the famous sentence, "The only thing we 
have to fear is fear itself," he declared an 
unlimited national emergency. Under the 
headline, "America Ready to Fight," the 
London Times printed the text of the 
broadcast on Thursday, 29 May. 

Early in June Roosevelt decided to ac- 
cede to the wishes of the Icelandic Govern- 
ment that American troops be sent to re- 
lieve the British garrison in Iceland. The 
British needed their troops elsewhere; Ice- 
land, athwart the vital North Atlantic con- 



voy routes, could not be left defenseless; 10 
leaders on both sides of the Atlantic called 
to mind the saying, "Whoever possesses 
Iceland holds a pistol firmly pointed at 
England, America, and Canada." 17 This 
was the official explanation. Behind the 
decision were convincing secret reports that 
the Nazis were planning to invade the 
Soviet Union. It therefore appeared much 
more likely that the United States could 
take action in Iceland without risking re- 
taliation by the Germans. 18 

On 5 June General Chaney obtained 
from Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson 
permission to send a reconnaissance party 
of seven SPOBS officers, including Colonel 
Coffey, to Iceland immediately. The offi- 
cers departed on 9 June, and in a week's 
stay Colonel Coffey visited the British in- 
stallations and made plans for Ordnance 
support of the relief expedition. These were 
the earliest detailed Ordnance plans for 
a specific theater of operations. 19 

In general, Rainbow 5 had contemplated 
sending to Iceland one division reinforced 
with special combat and service units, to- 
gether with such air forces as the situation 
dictated. The whole would constitute a 



London Times, May 26, 28, 1941 



10 (1) Department of State Bulletin X (17 June 
1944), "Iceland," p. 563. (2) U.S. Army Iceland 
Base Command, Armed Guardians: One Year in 
Iceland ( Reykjavik ( December 1942), p. 11. (3) 
Messrges Between the President of the United States 
and the Prime Minister of Iceland, 14 Jul 41, WPD 

4493-14- 

17 Churchill, The Grand Alliance, p. 138. 

18 ( 1 ) Stetson Conn and Byron Fairchild, The 
Framework of Hemisphere Defense, UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washing- 
ton, i960), pp. 124-25. (2) For the fluctuations 
between mid- 1940 and mid- 1 941 in American plan- 
ning with respect to Iceland, see Conn, Engelman, 
and Fairchild, Guarding the United States and Its 
Outposts, pp. 461-72. 

19 ( 1 ) Memo, Brig Gen Leonard T. Gerow, Actg 
ACofS, for TAG, 5 Jun 41, sub: Iceland Recon- 
naissance, WPD 4493. (2) The Predecessor Com- 
mands, pp. 40-41. (3) Sprague History, pp. 33-36. 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



task force, a term just coming into use in 
the U.S. Army. Colonel Coffey's plans for 
Indigo, the code name for troop move- 
ments to Iceland, included detachments of 
several types of Ordnance companies: the 
medium maintenance company, which was 
the backup company for the division's or- 
ganic light maintenance company; the am- 
munition company, which received am- 
munition at the dumps where it was un- 
loaded and issued to the unit ammunition 
officer; the depot company, which stocked 
and issued everything except ammunition; 
and the aviation company, which supplied 
bombs and kept the guns on the aircraft 
in repair. 20 

The maintenance of ground weapons 
and combat vehicles such as tanks (Ord- 
nance did not yet have responsibility for 
transport vehicles) was performed at three 
levels, or echelons. First echelon consisted 
of the proper care of weapons (sometimes 
called preventive maintenance) and minor 
repairs and was done by the individual 
soldier. More difficult repairs requiring 
special tools and skills, designated second 
echelon, were done by the Ordnance units 
assigned to the line organizations : the light 
maintenance company assigned to the in- 
fantry division, often backed up by a me- 
dium maintenance company or detachment 
(as in plans for Indigo); the medium 
maintenance company assigned to the cav- 
alry division; or the maintenance battalion 



assigned to the armored division. Every- 
thing beyond the capacity of these accom- 
panying, and thus highly mobile, Ordnance 
units was sent to the rear. This was called 
third echelon, and included all major over- 
haul or complete rebuild. 21 

In planning the Ordnance supplies that 
would be needed for Indigo, Coffey had 
to adapt the rather general plans of Rain- 
bow 5 to local conditions. Iceland is essen- 
tially a volcanic island, its center a barren 
tableland covered with lava flows and im- 
mense glaciers from which great turbulent 
streams run down to the sea. The towns 
are along the coast, which is so deeply in- 
dented with fjords that the coast line meas- 
ures more than three thousand miles, 
though the circumference of the island is 
only about half that distance. On the south- 
west coast is the capital and principal port, 
Reykjavik, in comparison with which the 
other towns of the island are villages. The 
three other ports that could be used to land 
supplies during the winter were Akureyri 
in the north and Seydhisfjordhur and Rey- 
dharfjordhur in the east. There were thus 
three supply areas, the northwestern-west- 
ern-southwestern area, the Akureyri area, 
and the area served by the eastern ports. 
Among the three areas there was no com- 
munication during the winter except by 
sea, and the sole supplies available locally 
were, as Colonel Coffey observed, "rock 
and mutton." 22 



20 (i) Memo, Gerow, Actg ACofS, for CofS, 21 
Jun 41, sub: U.S. Forces for Indigo, WPD 4493-15. 
( 2 ) For Ground Force organization at the time see 
Kent R. Greenfield, Robert R. Palmer and Bell I. 
Wiley, The Organization of Ground Combat Troops, 
UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
(Washington, 1947); for other types of Ordnance 
maintenance companies see Harry C. Thomson and 
Lida Mayo, The Ordnance Department: Procure- 
ment and Supply, UNITED STATES ARMY IN 
WORLD WAR II (Washington, i960), ch. XXII. 



21 Thomson and Mayo, Procurement and Supply, 
pp. 448-49. After the transfer of responsibility for 
motor vehicles from Quartermaster 'to Ordnance in 
September 1942, the system was expanded to five 
echelons. 

22 ( 1 ) Memo, Chaney for CofS, 19 Jun 41, sub: 
Report of Reconnaissance of Iceland (hereafter 
cited as Iceland Recon Rpt), WPD 4493-20. (2) 
Memo, Comdr D. L. Ryan for CNO, 2 May 41, sub: 
Reconnaissance of Iceland by USS Niblack, WPD 
4493-1- 



THE MILITARY MISSIONS 



The Royal Army Ordnance Corps had 
base depots at Reykjavik and neighboring 
Lagafell, and advance depots at Seydhis- 
fjordhur and Akureyri. The depot at Rey- 
kjavik was, by American standards, really 
a quartermaster installation, for not more 
than 20 percent of the stock was ordnance 
supplies in the American sense of the term. 
That at Lagafell resembled a U.S. Ord- 
nance depot, with a maintenance company 
operating on the depot site. It was Lagafell 
that Colonel Coffey recommended for the 
American main base depot and shop, with 
smaller depots at Seydhisf jordhur and Aku- 
reyri. 

The most important and critical Ord- 
nance problem in Iceland, in Coffey's opin- 
ion, would be ammunition supply. He 
found the British storage "deplorable." Too 
much of the ammunition was concentrated 
in thin Nissen huts (which Coffey consid- 
ered much inferior to the American port- 
able igloo hut) or in the open. He recom- 
mended that two of the four British 
ammunition depots be abandoned and the 
remainder be considerably expanded and 
reorganized in the interest of safety, and 
that requirements for U.S. ammunition 
troops be increased from a detachment to 
a full company. 23 

The Ordnance plan for the Iceland 
expedition is interesting because it indi- 
cates the factors that had to be taken into 
account in planning overseas operations. 
On the scale contemplated it was not put 
into effect. Limitations on housing, storage, 
shipping, and port facilities and legislative 
restrictions on sending selectees out of the 
United States caused repeated fluctuations 
in the plans for the Iceland task force. On 
7 July, the day President Roosevelt an- 
nounced that U.S. troops would garrison 

23 Iceland Recon Rpt. 



Iceland, about 4,000 marines landed, to 
give effect to his words; a month later 
1,200 men of the 33d Pursuit Squadron of 
the Army Air Forces (AAF) landed, and 
in mid-September a force of about 5,000 
men of the 5th Division arrived as an ad- 
vance detachment. Changes in the logis- 
tics planning for Iceland, by then a 
responsibility of the administrative agency, 
General Headquarters (GHO), continued. 
At one time in midsummer 194 1 ? the War 
Department proposed to group the Iceland 
troops with those of Newfoundland and 
Greenland for command purposes, but no- 
thing came of this. In June 1942 the 
island came under the European Theater of 
Operations, United States Army (ETOU- 
SA), for tactical purposes, though it con- 
tinued to be administered and supplied 
from the United States. 

The Lend-Lease Missions 
to the Middle East and China 

By the summer of 1941 it was becoming 
increasingly evident that each of the five 
lend-lease agencies in the United States — 
War, Navy, Treasury, and Agriculture De- 
partments and the Maritime Commission 
— would have to establish field organiza- 
tions in the foreign countries receiving aid 
to see to it that lend-lease materials were 
not being wasted. The proposed groups 
would not be concerned with policy, which 
would be the responsibility of the local 
lend-lease representative, but would furnish 
advice and supervision to insure that the 
American equipment was properly shipped 
and stored, kept in good repair, and effec- 
tively used. To do the job in China, Gen- 
eral Marshall approved a military mission 
early in July and by September the Divi- 
sion of Defense Aid Reports (DDAR), 
predecessor of the Office of Lend-Lease 



10 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Administration, was suggesting that some- 
what similar arrangements should be made 
for England and the Middle East.- 4 

The War Department had been aware of 
the problem for some time and was already 
contemplating sending groups to England 
and Egypt, as well as China, to administer 
several kinds of Army activities having to 
do not only with types, quantity, and de- 
livery of lend-lease materiel but also with 
exchange of equipment and information 
on new designs, reports on manufacturing 
methods abroad, tests of American weap- 
ons in combat, and interchange of men 
for training. The work had grown too 
large in those countries to be handled by 
the local military attaches. For England, 
SPOBS had been the logical choice; and 
when General Chaney was consulted in 
August he was-asked whether the Middle 
East group, which also involved liaison 
with the British, might not be a subsidiary 
of the group in England. 25 

Chaney urged that a technical agency 
composed of Signal, Air, and Ordnance 
specialists be organized at once in England, 
preferably under SPOBS, to co-ordinate on 
research and manufacture with the British 
and to supervise American service teams 
and technical observers and report on the 
performance of American weapons. He 
thought the agency might also advise on 
lend-lease "when the situation crystallizes." 
After Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 
June, the situation on lend-lease was hazy; 
aid might have to be extended to the Rus- 

21 Memo, Maj Gen James H. Burns, DDAR, for 
Secy War, 8 Sep 41, AG 400.3295. 

2u ( 1 ) Memo, Secy War for Burns, 2 Oct 41, AG 
400.3295. (2) Draft Memo, Brig Gen Sherman 
Miles, ACofS G-2, for CofS, 1 1 Jul 41, sub: Miscel- 
laneous Activities in Foreign Countries, WPD 4549. 
( 3 ) Memo, Gerow, Actg ACofS, for TAG, 9 Aug 4 1 , 
sub: Proposed Administrative Missions in Great 
Britain and the Middle East, WPD 4402-51. 



sians. Decisions on the final distribution of 
equipment would have to be made at the 
highest political levels, and it seemed to 
Chaney unwise to make a definite plan 
until the methods of lend-lease operation 
were clearer. 26 

Late in September the Secretary of War 
established under SPOBS the technical 
agency Chaney wanted and also made 
SPOBS the War Department agency for 
military matters pertaining to lend-lease, 
with emphasis on the supply and mainte- 
nance of American equipment. Details of 
SPOBS's new duties were subsequently 
worked out in conferences by War Depart- 
ment planners with Chaney when he was 
on a trip to the United States, and in dis- 
cussions with Harriman. By November it 
was clearly understood that Chaney would 
shoulder only the War Department's re- 
sponsibilities for lend-lease, confining him- 
self to technical matters and leaving the 
political side to Harriman. 27 

The Middle East 

Very early in the planning for lend-lease 
missions it was decided that the Middle 
East mission would be a separate group, 
not under SPOBS; this mission was to be- 
come more and more important as news 
came of German victories in the east. A 
shift in the "strange, sombre warfare of the 
desert," as Churchill called it, 28 brought 

-°Msg. Chaney to CofS, 26 Aug 41, WPD 4402- 

27 (1) Msg 57, AGWAR to SPOBS, 25 Sep 41. 

(2) Memo, Gen Gerow for Maj Gen Richard C. 
Moore, 17 Nov 41, sub: Letter to General Chaney. 

(3) Ltr, Moore to Chaney, 19 Nov 41. All in AG 
400.3295. 

28 Speech in House of Commons, "Progress of the 
War," 27 Jan 42, in Hutchinson s Pictorial History 
of the War, 24 December 1941-ij March 194a, 
Walter Hutchinson, ed. (London & Melbourne: 
Hutchinson & Co., Ltd., n.d.), pp. 101-07, 125-41. 



THE MILITARY MISSIONS 



11 



Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel's Afrika 
Korps to Egypt, threatening the Suez Ca- 
nal; and Hitler's sweep eastward after his 
invasion of the USSR endangered not only 
Iraq but Iran, a country vital to England 
for its vast oil fields and to the Soviet 
Union for its passage to the Persian Gulf. 
To forestall the Germans, Great Britain and 
the USSR jointly occupied Iran. 

In late July 1941 the British planned to 
allocate 60 percent of all the American 
lend-lease tanks to the Middle East and 
contemplated asking the United States to 
provide the equipment and personnel to 
carry out a systematic program of overhaul 
immediately for every tank in Egypt, and 
later possibly a program for Iraq and 
Iran." 9 This idea went far beyond anything 
that had been conceived up to that time. 
When the first shipload of American light 
tanks went out to Egypt in May 1941 the 
Ordnance Department had had to consider 
the problem of training British troops in 
operation and repair. The British had re- 
quested that Ordnance mechanics be sent 
on the same ship for that purpose, but 
without result. General Wesson, Chief of 
Ordnance, was inclined to believe that the 
British ought to send their men to the 
United States for training. In any case, 
he did not have enough technicians to 
spare for an all-out effort. The best he 
could do was to send Capt. Joseph M. 
Colby and four technical sergeants to 
Egypt, Colby (attached to the military 
attache's office at Cairo and soon to be 
promoted to major) as an observer to see 
how the U.S. tanks stood up in combat 
and the sergeants to help train the British 
on all types of American weapons. They 



20 Rpt. War Office Meeting With Ministry of 
Labour, 24 Jul 41, Folder, North African Military 
Mission, Plans, Tab 24, OHF. 



also helped to set up a base ordnance work- 
shop and depot for American equipment 
at the British depot at Tel-el-Kebir near 
Cairo. 30 

At the British-American Atlantic Con- 
ference in August, or shortly thereafter, the 
British specifically asked the Americans to 
establish and operate depots in the Middle 
East to stock and repair lend-lease muni- 
tions, and President Roosevelt found a 
way to satisfy the request without violating 
neutrality. On 13 September he asked the 
Secretary of War to contract with Ameri- 
can commercial companies to operate sup- 
ply and maintenance depots in the Middle 
East. The operation would mainly concern 
aircraft and ordnance of all kinds. In addi- 
tion to performing the functions usually 
assigned to base and intermediate depots 
in a theater of war, such as stocking spare 
parts and providing maintenance facilities, 
the depots would serve as instruction cen- 
ters where British troops could be trained 
in operating American equipment. Also, 
the contractors would have to arrange for 
port, railroad, and truck facilities. For the 
maintenance of trucks and automobiles, 
then a Quartermaster responsibility, the 
President thought it might be necessary 
later to establish Quartermaster depots also. 
On all details of this vast undertaking, the 
British authorities would have to be con- 
sulted. The Middle East Directive stated 
flatly, "Their needs should govern." 31 

As a consequence, a large organization 
was required to administer throughout the 
Middle East the great maintenance and 

30 (1) Wesson Conferences, 10, 12 May, 23, 27 
Aug 41. (2) Ltr, Capt Colby to Brig Gen Earl 
MacFarland, 27 Sep 41, AG 400.3295. (3) Colby, 
Progress Report for the Period of August 1st to 
January 9th, Folder, North African Military Mis- 
sion, Reports, OHF. 

31 Memo, Franklin D. Roosevelt for Secy War, 13 
Sep 41, AG 400.3239. 



12 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



supply program the President had ordered, 
an organization much more directly con- 
cerned with operations than the Egyptian 
mission originally planned, and much more 
extensive in scope and territory. The term 
Middle East now embraced more than 
Egypt. The German threat to Cairo from 
the west called for depots elsewhere, south 
of Suez and in Palestine, in the Red Sea 
area; the German threat from the north, 
involving Iraq and Iran and the neces- 
sity for furnishing arms to Russia, meant 
depots in Iraq and Iran as far north as 
Tehran. 

The size of the area to be covered, the 
fact that there would be more than one 
British headquarters to deal with, and the 
difference in the problems of immediate 
aid to Britain and future aid to Russia, 
brought the War Department to the deci- 
sion to send not one military mission to 
the Middle East but two — the Military 
North African Mission (MNAM) and the 
Military Iranian Mission (MIM). The 
North African Mission was assigned as its 
sphere of action "the theatre based upon 
the Red Sea," including Egypt and the 
Levant, an area under the jurisdiction of 
British Middle East headquarters in Cairo. 
The Iranian Mission was assigned to "the 
theatre based upon the Persian Gulf," in- 
cluding Iraq, Iran, and western India as 
far as Agra, falling partly within the area 
of the British commander in Iraq, partly 
in that of his superior, the Commander- 
in-Chief, India. The mission in the Red Sea 
area was to be headed by Brig. Gen. Russell 
L. Maxwell, an officer with long experi- 
ence in the Ordnance Department, and 
the choice was appropriate, for the first 
need in that area was the supply and main- 
tenance of weapons. The mission in the 
Persian Gulf area, an arid, primitive region 



where construction and improvement of 
transportation had to precede supply, was 
to be headed by Brig. Gen. Raymond A. 
Wheeler of the Engineers. In October 
1941 a military mission to the USSR un- 
der Maj. Gen. John N. Greely was estab- 
lished, but it lasted only a few months, 
partly because of the attitude of the Rus- 
sians and partly because it overlapped to 
some extent both the lend-lease organiza- 
tion in Moscow under Brig. Gen. Philip 
P. Faymonville and the Iranian Mission. 32 
The two Middle East missions and the 
China mission differed in several respects 
from the Special Observer Group. The 
main difference was that their lend-lease 
responsibilities were heavier. SPOBS's lend- 
lease functions were limited, thanks to the 
presence of the Harriman office in London 
and to the tendency of the British to go 
direct to Washington. The Middle East 
and China missions had instructions to 
operate on a much larger scale. 

China 

In announcing the American Military 
Mission to China (AMMISCA) on 26 
August 1941 President Roosevelt defined 
its function as the study of China's needs 
for defense and the giving of advice and 
suggestions on lend-lease aid. The head 
of the mission, Brig. Gen. John Magruder, 
defined the principal purpose more broad- 
ly as "increasing the effectiveness of the 
Chinese forces." 33 Magruder (who had 
served for eight years as military attache 
in China) and other old China hands in 



32 C. Bradford Mitchell, Ordnance Operations in 
Middle East Theatre, October 1950 (hereafter cited 
as Mitchell MS), MS, OHF. 

33 Memo, Magruder for CofS, 11 Aug 41, sub: 
Military Mission to China, ASF International Div, 
Missions Br, 334.8. 



THE MILITARY MISSIONS 



13 



the War Department such as Maj. Haydon 
L. Boatner of G-4 knew that aid to China 
was in an entirely different category from 
aid to England. The Chinese were asking 
for more equipment than they could use 
or even transport into China; moreover, 
some of it was too complicated for the un- 
trained Chinese soldier. Competent military 
advice was badly needed. 34 

In General Magruder's advance party, 
which left by air for China on 18 Septem- 
ber 1941, was his chief of staff, Col. 
Edward E. MacMorland, an Ordnance 
officer. Stopping at Honolulu, Midway, 
and Wake, which MacMorland found 
"in a fever of defense preparations," and 
at Guam — "practically defenseless" — the 
party spent several days in Manila confer- 
ring with General Douglas MacArthur be- 
fore flying via Hong Kong to Chungking. 
Arriving in much-bombed Chungking on 
9 October, the members of the mission 
were surprised to find no blackout — elec- 
tric lights were blazing. They were given a 
fine brick building for their headquarters 
and living quarters, with a pleasant garden 
and a huge staff of servants, and were 
immediately engulfed in a round of re- 
ceptions and elaborate, fourteen-course 
dinners. 35 

On MacMorland's recommendation, the 
two Ordnance members of the China Mis- 
sion were a specialist on arsenals and pro- 
duction, Lt. Col. Walter H. Soderholm, 
and a specialist on maintenance, 1st Lt. 



34 ( 1 ) Ltr, Col Henry W. T. Eglin to Co-ordina- 
tor of Information, 12 Nov 41, ASF International 
Div 3 1 9. 1. (2) Memo, Maj Boatner for Lt Cols 
Albert W. Waldron and Henry S. Aurand, 3 Jun 
41, sub: Reorganization and Expansion of China 
Defense Aid Activities, ASF International Div, Mis- 
sions Br, 334.8. 

35 Col. E. E. MacMorland, "Mission to China," 
Army Ordnance, XXIV, 137 (March-April, 1943), 
284-85. 



Eugene P. Laybourn. 36 Soderholm came in 
by air on 23 October. Laybourn was the 
last to arrive, having stayed behind to par- 
ticipate in conferences on the 7-ton Mar- 
mon-Herrington tank that seemed the most 
practical tank to furnish the Chinese, since 
it was in production and could be used on 
the primitive Chinese road net. With Lt. 
Col. John R. Francis, the mission's tank 
expert, and four or five other members of 
the mission, including officers concerned 
with the Burma Road, he arrived at the 
port of Rangoon on the Silver Dawn the 
second week of November and traveled 
up the Burma Road, making firsthand 
observations on a problem that had re- 
ceived a good deal of study — how to 
transport the tanks from Lashio, the rail- 
head, to Chungking. 37 

Soderholm conferred with Maj. Gen. 
Yu Ta-wei, the Chinese Army's Chief of 
Ordnance, and visited Chinese arsenals. 
What he found in the twenty arsenals was 
not encouraging. There were about a mil- 
lion rifles. There was a heterogeneous as- 
sortment of artillery from the arsenals of 
Europe and Japan, about 800 pieces, but 
spare parts and ammunition, especially for 
the artillery brought from the Soviet Union, 
were almost exhausted. The Chinese ar- 
senals could make field artillery, mortars, 
machine guns, rifles, and ammunition, but 
for several months had been operating at 



39 Memo, MacMorland for CofOrd, 20 Aug 41, 
sub: Detail of Personnel for Military Mission to 
China, ASF International Div, Missions Br, 200 
Personnel-China Mission. 

37 ( 1 ) Hq AMMISCA Weekly Rpts, No. 2, 23 
Oct 41, No. 9, 22 Nov 41. (2) Rpt, Maj Boatner, 
7 Oct 41, sub: Conference — Reference to Details on 
Republic of China Requisition No. C-39 for 240 
7-ton Marmon-Herrington Tanks. (3) Rpt, Col 
Eglin, Chief, Washington Detail AMMISCA, 29 
Sep 41, sub: Weekly Report of Activities — Home 
Office September 16 to September 27, 1941. All in 
ASF International Div 31 9.1. 



14 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



one-fourth capacity because of shortages 
of raw materials. Powder and metal for 
ammunition were almost nonexistent. The 
most pressing need seemed to be for ar- 
senal metals, explosives, and machinery, 
and for finished small arms ammunition. 
Next in importance were infantry weapons 
and artillery. Members of AMMISCA 
learned that most of General Yu's needs 
for procurement had already been submit- 
ted by T. V. Soong, head of China De- 
fense Supplies, Inc., the purchasing author- 
ity in the United States; and that Mr. 
Soong's estimates had been based on thirty 
Chinese divisions, a strength that had not 
been finally approved by Generalissimo 
Chiang Kai-shek. Until it was approved, 
General Magruder radioed Secretary of 
War Stimson, little more could be done on 
materiel. In any case it seemed impossible 
to obtain from the Chinese definite data 
on what was most needed. 38 

Vagueness and procrastination on the 
part of Chinese military leaders also ham- 
pered the Ordnance officers in making 
plans for training Chinese soldiers in the 
use of lend-lease arms. They learned that 
the Generalissimo contemplated establish- 
ing two training centers, one near Kun- 
ming, the other near Kweiyang, but the 
Chinese National Military Council hesi- 
tated to locate the centers or name their 
commanders. On the all-important sub- 
ject of tanks, it was not until 27 November 
that Lt. Gen. Shueh Ting-Yao, in charge 
of mechanized training, asked Colonel Mac- 
Morland what buildings and grounds would 
be needed for an armored force training 
school. Plans for the organization and use 



of tank and scout car units had not gone 
beyond the most rudimentary stage. 39 

The Chinese Army lacked not only weap- 
ons and training but also means of getting 
supplies to the various fronts. For example, 
west of the main railroad terminus at Kun- 
ming there were no roads. Only trails led 
to the front and all supply was by coolie 
or pack animal. It was obviously impossible 
for the Chinese to launch a large-scale 
offensive for a long time to come. In the 
meantime, as General MacArthur had sug- 
gested to AMMISCA members on the stop 
in Manila, the Chinese might have engaged 
in guerrilla warfare behind the sprawling 
front, but this they had failed to do. The 
reason for the failure, General Magruder 
bluntly reported, was to be found in China's 
"lack of aggressiveness and initiative, and 
in the age-long practice of Chinese com- 
manding officers of regarding their soldiers 
as static assets to be conserved for assistance 
in fighting against their fellow-countrymen 
for economic and political supremacy." 40 

Even had the Chinese leaders shown 
more initiative and aggressiveness and pro- 
vided better operating conditions, there 
would still be the problem of getting ma- 
teriel into the country. Because the Jap- 
anese controlled the east coast of China, 
all supplies had to be landed at the port 



38 AMMISCA Weekly Rpts, No. 7, 21-27 Nov 
41, and No. 8, 28 Nov-4 Dec 41, ASF International 
Div 319. 1. 



30 (1) Radio, MacMorland to AMMISCA, 15 
Nov 41. (2) Memo, Laybourn, 27 Nov 41, sub: 
Memorandum of a Meeting of Chinese Army Officers 
and Members of the American Military Mission on 
November 27, 1941. at 2:30 P.M., ASF Interna- 
tional Div 3 1 9. 1. 

J "(i)Telg, The Military Mission to China to 
the War Department (signed Magruder), Chung- 
king, February 10, 1942, No. 256 AMMISCA, in 
Department of State Publication 6353, Foreign 
Relations of the United States. Diplomatic Papers 
1942, China (Washington, 1956). (2) MacMor- 
land, "Mission to China," p. 284. (3) Ltr, Francis 
to Gerow, WPD WDGS, 12 Jan 42, WPD 4389-102. 



THE MILITARY MISSIONS 



15 



of Rangoon in Burma, hauled up the Bur- 
ma railway and highway to Lashio, and 
then trucked over the Burma Road to 
China. Members of AMMISCA considered 
the Burma Road the worst logistical bot- 
tleneck of all. Congested with civilian traf- 
fic, lacking provisions for maintenance and 
any semblance of orderly administration by 
the Chinese, it permitted only a trickle of 
materiel to get through. The growing ser- 
iousness of the transportation problem was 
reflected in the figures on lend-lease ship- 
ments. Out of 110,864 long tons shipped 
to China between May 1941 and April 
1942, 67,828 consisted of trucks, petroleum, 
and road building supplies, compared with 
only 1 1,398 long tons of ordnance materiel, 
of which 8,725 tons were ammunition. 
Trucks and their spare parts accounted for 
29,081 tons. 

Some of these supplies were never de- 
livered. After Pearl Harbor the Japanese 
advanced into Burma, taking Rangoon and 
cutting the Burma Road. The door to 
China was closed. The primary mission of 
AMMISCA was over; its members, feeling 
that they were "buried here," without mail 
or radios between late November and mid- 
January, were anxious to get away. Colonel 
Soderholm was recalled to Washington in 
January. Early in March, Lt. Gen. Joseph 
W. Stilwell arrived in Chungking to take 
over command of all military forces in 
China, Burma, and India, departing very 
soon for Burma to supervise the two Chinese 
armies engaged there with the Japanese. 
While the fight for Burma was still going 
on, Colonel MacMorland was shifted down 
to Yunnan Province to act as chief adviser 
for the Chinese Communications Zone. 
Lieutenant Laybourn participated in the 
unsuccessful effort to hold Burma and in 
the grueling withdrawal. He was a mem- 



ber of the group led by General Stilwell 
that had to abandon its vehicles on 6 May 
and walk through the jungle for four ex- 
hausting days. When the party reached a 
river flowing west and embarked on rafts, 
Laybourn took the mules and a group of 
Chinese overland to a rendezvous on the 
border of India. Henceforth India was to 
provide the bases from which China would 
be supplied — first by air, and later by a 
road from Ledo, in Assam, to Kunming — 
and the main problem of the soon to be 
activated China-Burma-India (CBI) The- 
ater was to be a problem of transporta- 
tion. 41 

Initiation Into Coalition Warfare 

The military mission phase of the Ord- 
nance Department's overseas operations, 
beginning in May 1941 with the arrival of 
the SPOBS Ordnance officer in London, 
ended in England on 8 January 1942 when 
SPOBS was transformed into U.S. Army 
Forces in the British Isles (USAFBI); in 
China on 4 March 1942 when the mem- 
bers of AMMISCA came under Head- 
quarters, U.S. Army Forces, China, Burma 
and India; and in the Middle East on 13 
June 1942 when both MIM and MNAM 
came under U.S. Army Forces in the Mid- 
dle East (USAFIME). 

In this phase, the Ordnance officers of 
the missions were learning characteristics 
of their future allies and were discovering 
to what extent unfamiliar terrain and cli- 
mate in faraway countries, some of them 
more primitive than could have been im- 
agined, would affect Ordnance operations. 
Above all, they were learning the restric- 
tions of coalition warfare, in which plans 

41 (1) Ltr, Francis to Gerow, WPD WDGS, 12 
Jan 42, WPD 4389-102. (2) MacMorland, "Mis- 
sion to China," p. 289. 



16 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



depended on military conversations between 
governments that frequently had differing 
points of view. 

The Ordnance task in the Middle East 
missions was far greater than that in 
SPOBS and AMMISCA because of the 
large allocation of tanks to the Middle East 
and because of the huge maintenance and 



supply program ordered by the President's 
Middle East Directive. In the months fol- 
lowing Pearl Harbor, the task in the Mid- 
dle East would become more difficult be- 
cause plans would be constantly revised to 
fit the shifting pattern of warfare in North 
Africa and the changing requirements of 
the Allies. 



CHAPTER II 



Middle East Kaleidoscope 



Brilliant sunshine suddenly blotted out by 
black rainclouds, clear air all at once hazy 
with sandstorms, hot days followed by bitter 
cold nights; above all, on a huge empty 
plain the flash and smoke of marching 
armies moving fast in complex patterns, 
suddenly advancing or retreating, meeting 
or veering off — this was the kaleidoscope of 
warfare in the Western Desert. Scarcely 
less kaleidoscopic were the changes in the 
direction and scale of the American effort 
in early 1942 to support Allied forces in 
the vast expanse known as the Middle East. 

At the outset, it seemed clear that a 
major part of the American effort should 
be to keep the British lend-lease tanks and 
trucks in operation, especially the tanks. 
In the fall of 1941 Lt. Gen. Sir Claude J. 
E. Auchinleck, British commander in chief 
in the Middle East, was preparing to move 
into the Libyan desert to challenge Rom- 
mel's Afrika Korps. During the build-up 
for the operation, Auchinleck had received 
some 470 British tanks (300 of the cruiser 
type, 170 of the more heavily armored "I" 
or Infantry type), and 300 American Stuart 
light tanks, but he was still below the 
strength he thought necessary. Every tank 
counted, for it took many weeks for a new 
tank to come from England and longer 
still for one to arrive from the United 
States. 1 



1 I. S. O. Playfair, The Mediterranean and Mid- 
dle East, III, September IQ4I to September ig42 



After spending a morning in the desert 
near Cairo watching a British brigade 
demonstrating its new American Stuart 
tanks, Auchinleck reported to Prime Min- 
ister Churchill that the men were delighted 
with the reliability and endurance of the 
Stuarts "when compared with our own 
tanks, and are frankly amazed at the length 
of time they can be kept in work without 
having to go into the shops to be over- 
hauled." 2 The British tanks required fre- 
quent overhauls, and when a tank landed 
back in the shops, it was usually out of ac- 
tion for about three months, since the Royal 
Army Ordnance Corps workshops were 
short of experienced tank mechanics and 
had no repair equipment other than what 
had been brought from England. There 
was no engineering industry to speak of in 
the Middle East. 3 

Following the President's Middle East 
Directive, the British submitted in October 
1 94 1 a list of tasks that they would like the 
U.S. Army to undertake in the Middle 
East. They put at the top of the list the 
overhaul of tanks. For this, two plants 
were required — one was to be in Egypt and 

(London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, i960), 

4- 

2 Ltr, Gen Auchinleck to Prime Minister, 29 
Sep 41, quoted in John Connell (pseudonym for 
John Henry Robertson), Auchinleck, A Biography 
of Field Marshal Sir Claude Auchinleck (London: 
Cassell, 1959), p. 311. 

3 Playfair. The Mediterranean and Middle East 
III, p. 4. 



18 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



the other possibly at Bombay or Port 
Elizabeth in South Africa. The second 
task was the overhaul of motor transport 
vehicles, and for this shops were required 
not only in Egypt and South Africa but also 
in Palestine. The third was the construc- 
tion of a plant in Egypt to service "war- 
like" American equipment, including ar- 
mament, instruments, and so on. These 
were immediate requirements for North 
Africa. More than a month later, after 
General Wheeler had gone to India and 
conferred with the British commander in 
chief, the British outlined the tasks to be 
performed in aid to the USSR and Great 
Britain in Iraq and Iran. The first was a 
base at Karachi to repair tanks; the second 
was an Ordnance depot and workshop at 
Tehran to service arms and equipment be- 
ing shipped from Indian and Persian Gulf 
ports to the Soviet Union. 4 

The Ordnance planning was the work of 
Col. Francis H. Miles, Jr., who had been 
designated Ordnance officer for both the 
North African and the Iranian missions, an 
arrangement that permitted a single plan 
for the entire Middle East and the placing 
of a contract for all activities (except motor 
transport) with a single contractor, since all 
tasks would be performed by a commercial 
contractor, as the Middle East Directive 
ordered. Miles approached several en- 
gineering companies with experience in for- 
eign construction, and also the Chrysler 
Corporation, which had been producing 
tanks for the Ordnance Department. Con- 
tractors generally seemed reluctant to 
undertake the job, some suggesting that it 



ought to be a military enterprise; Chrysler 
declined outright. The firm finally chosen 
was the J. G. White Engineering Corpora- 
tion. For automotive vehicles, General 
Motors Overseas Operations (a division of 
General Motors Corporation) accepted a 
separate contract for all vehicles except 
Fords, which required a separate contract 
with the Ford Motor Company. 5 

The OMET's 

Using the British requirements as a blue- 
print, Colonel Miles planned seven instal- 
lations, which he called OMET's (Ord- 
nance Middle East Tasks) : OMET i — a 
base depot at Bombay to serve the North 
African and Iranian advance depots and 
to act as the principal distribution, trans- 
fer, and assembly point for all material of 
all services being sent to the Middle East; 
OMET 2 — a base depot at Port Elizabeth, 
South Africa, for the overhaul of tank and 
motor vehicle assemblies; OMET 3 — an 
intermediate depot at Asmara in Eritrea to 
overhaul tanks and aircraft armament; 
OMET 4 — an intermediate depot at Kara- 
chi in India to overhaul tanks and motor 
vehicles; OMET 5 — a large advance depot 
in the Cairo area to repair not only tanks 
but also artillery, small arms, and instru- 
ments, and Signal and Engineer equipment; 
OMET 6 — an advance depot in Palestine 



* ( 1 ) Ltr, Supply Committee to British Supply 
Council in North America, 7 Oct 41. (2) Cable, 
24 Nov, Gen Wheeler GHQ India to Gen Moore. 
Folder, North African Military Mission, Plans, 
OHF. 



5 ( 1 ) Capt Paul D. Olejar, Ordnance Activities in 
the Middle East Missions, 15 Jun 44, note 12, 
MS, p. xvix, OHF. (2) Mitchell, Ordnance Oper- 
ations in Middle East Theatre, pp. 14-15. Unless 
otherwise cited, the Mitchell study and Motter, 
The Persian Corridor and Aid to Russia, are the 
principal sources for Ordnance base activities in 
the Middle East. (3) Memo, Miles for Crain, sub: 
Status of Ordnance Participation in the North 
African and Iran Military Missions as of Novem- 
ber 26, 1941 (hereafter cited as OMET Plan), 
Folder. NAMM. Plans. Tab 11. OHF. 



MIDDLE EAST KALEIDOSCOPE 



19 



primarily to repair instruments and optical 
apparatus, but also to overhaul tanks; 
OMET 7 — the depot and workshop at 
Tehran for equipment destined for the So- 
viet Union. The White Corporation esti- 
mated that the seven OMET's, some of 
them underground to be bombproof, and 
air-conditioned, would cost approximately 
$71,000,000.° 

Colonel Miles's plan, which the men in 
the theater considered a "rather elaborate 
scheme," objecting particularly to the time 
involved in placing the OMET's under- 
ground, was hardly on paper before the 
Pearl Harbor attack and other develop- 
ments made revisions necessary. Miles, 
flying via Hawaii to the Middle East, and 
en route on 7 December, returned to the 
United States. From Washington he sent 
a cable to Cairo suggesting that Major 
Colby, recently appointed acting Ordnance 
officer for MIM and MNAM, conduct a 
survey to determine whether changes were 
necessary, primarily whether Karachi 
rather than Bombay should be the main 
point for Ordnance supply and repair in 
the Middle East. After on-the-spot investi- 
gation by Colby and a survey by Miles 
upon his arrival in Cairo in late January 
1942, after the fast-moving tactical de- 
velopments in the Western Desert in late 
1941, and after a more careful assessment 
of the problems posed by the President's 
Middle East Directive, the OMET plan 
was drastically revised. 7 



The fluidity of the warfare in North 
Africa, beginning 17 November when 
Auchinleck moved into the Western Desert 
to challenge Rommel, raised questions not 
only as to the feasibility of attempting to 
support the operations by large fixed instal- 
lations but also as to the wisdom of doing 
so. When the battle was going well, as 
when the British advanced far into Cyre- 
naica in December 1941, the evacuation of 
damaged armor from Tobruk to shops in 
Egypt, for example, meant a 1,500-mile 
round trip over primitive railways and 
sand-choked roads. When the battle was 
going badly, as when Rommel made a 
counterthrust into Egypt, there was the 
possibility that the elaborate shops would 
fall into enemy hands. It is not surprising 
that the plans for the Port Elizabeth 
OMET were soon quietly dropped; that 
the Palestine depot, located near Tel-Aviv 
at Tel-Litwinsky, was relegated to a minor 
role; and that the depot at Asmara, about 
1 , 1 00 miles south of Cairo, was scaled down 
from a large, specially built intermediate 
depot to a small arsenal housed in Italian 
shops and used for the repair of small arms, 
trucks, motorcycles, and tires and the manu- 
facture of tools, parts, buckets, and other 
small items. Only at Heliopolis, the OMET 
near Cairo, was there eventually a tank 
shop of any size in the Red Sea area. 8 

In the Persian Gulf area, the main base 
depot (OMET 1) was located at Karachi 
rather than at Bombay because Bombay 



"OMET Plan, NAMM, Plans, Tab 11, OHF. 

7 ( 1 ) Memo, unsigned rough draft [possibly 
from NADiv CE], for Gen Wheeler, 20 Jan 42, 
ASF International Div, Missions Br, 600.12 Iran- 
ian Mission Projects in Middle East. (2) Ltr, Capt 
Alden K. Sibley, CE, to Mission Engineer, USM- 
NAM, Washington, D.C., 27 Jan 42, sub: First 
Interim Report on the Status of Engineer Con- 
struction in North Africa. (3) Cable, Miles to 



Maxwell, 24 Dec 41. (4) Progress Rpt, Ord Sec, 
USMNAM, 1 1 Jan 42-31 March 42. All in NAMM. 
Rpts, Tabs 40, 17, 64, OHF. 

8 ( 1 ) Comments by Vail Motter on Dr. Mitchell's 
Draft of Middle East Ordnance Activity, 2 Nov 50. 
(2) Intervs with Cols Earl S. Gruver, Floyd C. 
Devenbeck, Joseph A. McNerney, and Lt Col F. 
G. White, 14 Sep 50. All in Mitchell MS Notes. 
OHF. 



20 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



was not being used as a port of entry on 
account of the Japanese naval threat; more- 
over, Bombay was already overloaded with 
supply activities and was in a monsoon area 
that made open-air storage and shops im- 
practical. The intermediate base planned 
for Karachi was changed to Umm Oasr, 
a Persian Gulf port designated as the point 
for unloading Ordnance equipment. 
OMET 7 at Tehran was canceled because 
the Russians did not want tanks delivered 
there, preferring Archangel; instead, a 
mobile Ordnance unit would be sent to 
Baghdad, where the British were organ- 
izing an armored division equipped with 
American tanks. 9 

When Colonel Miles arrived in Cairo he 
was faced with the immediate problem of 
obtaining enough spare parts to keep the 
American tanks operating. There were 
then 505 M3 Stuart light tanks in Egypt 
and Palestine (writing off 75 lost by enemy 
action) and 70 M3 Grant mediums in 
Egypt. The British controlled spare parts, 
a function given them by the Middle East 
Directive — to Ordnance one of the most 
frustrating aspects of the President's direc- 
tive — and the system they had set up 
seemed to the Ordnance people extremely 
cumbersome. From British Middle East 
depots, on which the American depots 
would draw, requisitions went to London 
and thence to Washington, and supplies 
returned through the same channels. The 
differences in nomenclature and stockkeep- 
ing methods added to the confusion, for 
when the Americans came to the British 



depots to pick up the parts, the British often 
did not know what they had in stock. 
Miles made strenuous efforts to get spare 
parts shipped direct from U.S. depots to 
American shops in the Middle East, but got 
nowhere. On their right to control spare 
parts, the British remained adamant, and 
the main American tank shop at Helio- 
polis was never able to obtain enough spare 
parts to permit full-scale operation. 10 

Militarization 

The War Department directive of 18 
February 1942 that all mission activities be 
militarized as speedily as possible gave the 
Ordnance Department the opportunity to 
terminate the contract with the J. G. White 
Engineering Corporation, which up to that 
time had done no more than initiate some 
procurement and recruit a partial staff. No 
contract workers had reached the theater. 
The opportunity to terminate the contract 
was welcomed, for by then Ordnance was 
well aware of the problems it posed. The 
corporation was inexperienced in Ordnance 
operations; its letter of contract to operate 
supply and repair depots for tanks and 
miscellaneous Ordnance, Signal, Engineer, 
Chemical Warfare, and other military 
equipment also implied duplication of effort 
and confusion as to responsibility. More 
important than either of these considera- 
tions was the fact that there were inherent 
dangers in assigning to a civilian contrac- 
tor tasks that were essentially military. 



"(i) AMSEG 170, Bullivant to Maxwell, 31 
Jan 42, ASF International Div, Missions Br, MI 
311.27, Cables, N. Africa. (2) Ltr, Colby to Max- 
well, 18 Jan 42, sub: Survey of Proposed Ordnance 
Establishments in Iraq, Iran, and India, copy, 
NAMM, Rpts, Tab 17, OHF. 



10 ( 1 ) Memo, Miles for Crain. 9 Feb 42. sub: 
Status of American Tanks, Egypt & Palestine. (2) 
Memo, Lt Col Marshall E. Darby for Gen Crain, 
5 Mar 42, sub: Status of Foreign Missions. (3) 
Ltr, Gruver to Chief of Field Service. 18 Jul 42, 
sub: Ordnance Service in the Middle East. (4) 
1st Ind, Darby to Field Service, Exec Br [n.d.]. 
All in NAMM, Rpts. Tabs 28, 44, 74-76, OHF. 



MIDDLE EAST KALEIDOSCOPE 



21 



The contractor might abandon the work, or 
the employees could leave when they saw 
fit. Civilian workers in a combat area 
might be captured, in which case they did 
not have the protection of military status, or 
they might be killed. And the very nature 
of Ordnance materiel argued against con- 
tract operations, for the storage, issue, and 
repair of munitions was essentially too vital 
an operation, and too vulnerable to sabo- 
tage and security violations, to be entrusted 
to civilians. 11 

Yet the possibility that any Ordnance 
troops could arrive in the Middle East im- 
mediately was very slim because of the 
shipping and men needed in the build-up 
in England in early 1942. It was even im- 
possible for the Ordnance Section of the 
Military North African Mission to obtain 
its quota of 80 officers that spring, though 
Lt. Col. Earl S. Gruver, who headed the 
section after Colonel Miles went home be- 
cause of ill health on 10 March, protested 
strongly that the twenty officers on duty 
with the mission were too few to handle 
the heavy work load. 12 

The first Ordnance unit sent to the Mid- 
dle East, the 525th Heavy Maintenance 
Company (Tank), did not arrive until 
22 June 1942, debarking from the Queen 



11 ( 1 ) Memo, Robert P. Patterson, Under Secy 
War for Secy War, 21 Jan 42, sub: Contracts 
with Civilian Concerns for Overseas Facilities, 
NAMM, Plans, Tab 10, OHF. (2) Memo, CofOrd 
for ACofS G-3, 23 Jan 42, sub: Contracts with 
Civilian Concerns for Overseas Facilities, O.O. 160/ 
1 1 1555 Misc. (3) Memo, Lt Col S. F. Clabaugh 
for Gen Crain, 7 Mar 42, sub: Closing Out of Over- 
seas Contracts and Militarization of Contract Activ- 
ities, NAMM, Rpts, Tab 43, OHF. (4) Motter 
Comments on Mitchell MS, OHF. 

12 ( 1 ) Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics 
and Strategy, iQ40~ig43, pp. 506-07. (2) Ltr, 
Gruver to CofOrd, 12 Jun 42, sub: Progress of 
Ordnance Section, USMNAM, NAMM, Rpts, 
Tab 79, OHF. 



Mary along with 12,000 British reinforce- 
ments picked up in Scotland, after a long 
voyage around the Cape of Good Hope. 
Gruver reported that "all of us here in the 
Middle East were thrilled at their arrival," 
but there was considerable disappointment 
when it was discovered that the company 
had arrived without its hand tools or any 
transportation, the latter a most serious 
lack since the company had been designed 
as a mobile maintenance unit to support 
the British in the desert operations. While 
waiting for its trucks to arrive, the company 
was sent to the' British Tel-el-Kebir tank 
shop on the outskirts of Cairo, quartered in 
tents dug into the sand, with a mess hall 
described by the company historian as "a 
large, canvas-covered building addicted to 
tea, corn beef, and flies." But the stay at 
the Tel-el-Kebir shop was short. Rommel, 
having taken Tobruk on 2 1 June and won 
a brilliant victory at Matruh a week later, 
was at El 'Alamein at the beginning of July, 
posing so serious a threat to Cairo that 
many units were evacuated from the city, 
including the American Ordnance com- 
pany. On 2 July the company was sent by 
ship to Asmara Arsenal in Eritrea and re- 
mained there about two months. Then it 
was flown back to Cairo to open the Helio- 
polis tank shop. After the British break- 
through at El 'Alamein in November 1942, 
the 525th was sent out with Lt. Gen. Sir 
Bernard L. Montgomery's Eighth Army in 
the pursuit of Rommel and helped the 
British considerably in advanced workshops 
at Benghazi and Tripoli. The 525th was 
the only American company attached to 
Eighth Army at the time. 13 



13 ( 1 ) Robert J. Martinez, "Saga of the 'Great 
525th,'" Army Ordnance, XXX, 156 (May-June 
1946), pp. 326-28. (2) Ltr, Gruver to Chief of 
Field Service, 23 Jun 42, sub: Status of Ordnance 



22 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Not until mid-November 1942 did an 
Ordnance unit designed especially for base 
maintenance arrive in Egypt, the 1st Batta- 
lion of the 303d Ordnance Base Regiment. 
It was an innovation, for only in the spring 
of 1942 had the Ordnance Department 
been able to get General Staff approval for 
regimental organization. The battalion 
commander set one company to work in the 
Heliopolis tank shop, reinforcing it with 
about fifty civilians; he employed his other 
three companies in setting up a spare parts 
depot, an artillery and fire control shop, 
and a small arms shop. Though conditions 
were primitive at first — shops not yet built 
and the men quartered in tents — the shops 
were in operation by the end of November. 
But the shops were hardly shaken down and 
ready to produce when the volume of work 
fell off sharply. By the spring of 1943, 
thanks to the success of the Eighth Army's 
desert campaign, the sources of both dam- 
aged vehicles and replacement parts had 
moved so far away that the shops could 
get nothing to work with; in May the Helio- 
polis tank shop closed down. Tank mainte- 
nance men moved into vehicle mainte- 
nance, which in mid- 1942 became an Ord- 
nance responsibility and continued to be a 
rather heavy task in support of the Ninth 
Air Force's operation until early fall of 
'943- 14 



As air operations also dwindled and the 
war swept on and away from Egypt, the 
only remaining Ordnance activity of any 
importance in the area was the manufac- 
ture of cans and drums for oil and water, 
undertaken for the British and performed 
by the Overseas Steel Container Corpora- 
tion under contract to the Ordnance De- 
partment. The contract, reminiscent of the 
earlier arrangement with the J. G. White 
Engineering Corporation, was signed on 8 
February 1943, but the plant equipment 
did not begin to arrive in the Middle East 
until the following July and the operation 
was on the whole so unsuccessful that it 
was terminated on 1 November 1943. 
Responsibility for the container plants 
passed from Ordnance to the Quartermas- 
ter Corps on 9 February 1944. 15 

The tank shops and depots in the Persian 
Gulf area, planned at the time when, as one 
Ordnance officer put it, "the Mission bub- 
ble was being inflated," 16 hardly got be- 
yond the planning stage. At first designed 
to support the British line of communica- 
tions in Iraq, with a main base at Karachi, 
an intermediate base at Umm Qasr, and 
an advance base at Baghdad, the mission 
was changed in early 1942 to supplying the 
Soviet Union through Iran. The Iraqi 
projects at Umm Qasr and Baghdad were 
returned to the British in April 1942. Be- 



Projects in the USMNAM, NAMM, Rpts, Tab 65, 
OHF. (3) For the panic in Cairo, which the Brit- 
ish called "The Flap," see J. A. I. Agar-Hamilton 
and I. C. F. Turner, Crisis in the Desert May- 
July ig42 (Cape Town: Oxford University Press. 
1952), pp. 281-84. 

14 ( 1 ) Maj. Gen. J. K. Crain, "Ordnance in the 
Field," Ordnance, XXXIX (September-October. 
■954), 3 2 9- (2) Memo, Brig Gen Harry L. Twad- 
dle, ACofS, for TAG, 5 Mar 42, sub: Constitu- 
tion and Activation of Certain Ordnance Units. 
NAMM, Plans, Tab 16, OHF. (3) Roy F. Dun- 
lap, Ordnance Went Up Front (Plantersville, S.C.: 



Small-arms Technical Publishing Co., 194 8 ), PP- 
15-17. (4) Intervs with Gruver, Devenbeck, Mc- 
Nerney, and White. 14 Sep 50, Mitchell MS Notes. 
OHF. 

15 For the conflict between the British and Amer- 
icans over the can and drum program see Ltr, Col 
Forrest C. Shaffer to Maj Gen L. H. Campbell. 
9 Jul 43, Folder, General Levin H. Campbell's 
Personal Correspondence (Overseas Material) 
(hereafter cited as Campbell Overseas File), OHF. 

16 1 st Memo Ind, Darby for Field Service, Exec 
Br, Mil Missions Sec. 30 Jul 42, NAMM, Rpts. 
Tab 77. OHF. 



MIDDLE EAST KALEIDOSCOPE 



23 



cause the Iranian route overland from 
Karachi was not acceptable to the Rus- 
sians, Karachi was also eliminated as a base 
for USSR supplies and henceforth would 
be concerned only with supply to the 
China-Burma-India Theater. 17 

The Russians had very early made it 
plain that they did not want a depot at 
Tehran. To comply with their wishes, the 
American planners late in 1941 decided 
that the port for supply to the USSR would 
be Bandar Shahpur, at the head of the Per- 
sian Gulf and at the beginning of the Trans- 
Iranian Railway. When American tanks 
began to arrive in numbers at Persian Gulf 
ports in the summer of 1942, Ordnance 
officers established a school at Bandar 
Shahpur to teach Russians how to repair 
them. It lasted only a few days. Word 
came from Moscow that the tanks could 
not be delayed but must be forwarded to 
the front. An attempt to move the school 
to Baku failed when the USSR refused to 
grant visas to the three instructors. 18 




Captain Jarrett 



The Desert Proving Ground 



17 ( 1 ) Memo, Home Office MIM to Harry L. 
Hopkins, 21 Feb 42, sub: Activities of the U.S. 
Military Iranian Mission. (2) Memo, Home Office 
MIM to Brig Gen Henry S. Aurand, 1 Apr 42, 
sub: Iranian Mission Activities. Both in ASF 
International Div, Missions Br, 31 9.1. (3) Motter 
Comments on Mitchell MS, OHF. 

18 ( 1 ) Iranian Military Mission: History of Ord- 
nance, Persian Gulf Service Command to January 
1943, MS, OHF, p. 5. (2) Later, Ordnance was in- 
volved in the truck assembly plants (TAP) in the 
Persian Gulf Command at Andimeshk (TAP I) and 
Khorramshahr (TAP II ) . First operated under con- 
tract with General Motors Overseas Operations, af- 
ter 1 July 1943 they were operated by three Ord- 
nance medium automotive maintenance companies 
(the 3474th, 506th, and 3455th), with the help of 
native labor. For an ineresting story on the opera- 
tion, see Joel Sayre, "Persian Gulf Command," The 
New Yorker (February 17, 1945). (3) For the 
efforts to supply the Russians through Iran, see 
Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and Strategy, 
1940-1943, chs. XX, XXI. 



Whatever the accomplishments and 
frustrations of the Ordnance men in the 
Middle East missions in attempting to pro- 
vide base support to the Allies, Ordnance 
was able to assist the British very material- 
ly with technical information on their lend- 
lease weapons and ammunition. This ef- 
fort, begun when Captain Colby and the 
four sergeants were sent out to Egypt late 
in the summer of 1941, was intensified in 
February 1942 with the arrival in Cairo of 
Capt. George B. Jarrett, who constituted 
the one-man technical section of the 
MNAM Ordnance Section. Early as- 
signed as ammunition adviser to British 
GHQ, he conducted demonstrations of new 
U.S. ammunition and weapons and, at 
General Maxwell's request, established a 



24 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



school to train the British on American 
ordnance. 19 

The Ordnance Section of MNAM 
rendered even more important service in 
the long run by providing expert firsthand 
information to the technicians in the United 
States on friendly and enemy equipment 
at a date early enough to permit improve- 
ments in American weapons destined for 
Europe in 1944. The great battles of 1941 
and 1942 in the Western Desert, beginning 
with the so-called Winter Battle around 
Sidi Rezegh airfield near Tobruk between 
late November 1941 and January 1942, 
were an excellent proving ground. 

Some early information was sent to the 
United States by the American military 
attache at Cairo, Col. Bonner F. Fellers, 
who witnessed the beginning of the Winter 
Battle and talked to British commanders, 
but his reports were based largely on Brit- 
ish sources — unofficial sources for the most 
part, because the British were reluctant to 
release official records on such touchy mat- 
ters as the performance of American tanks 
as compared with their own. 20 The Ord- 
nance members of the Military North Afri- 
can Mission, on the other hand, carefully 
studied the crippled tanks brought back to 
the British shop at Tel-el-Kebir, visited the 
battlefields, and even managed to send 
important German equipment to the 
United States for testing by Ordnance at 
Aberdeen Proving Ground. 21 

19 ( 1 ) See above, p. 12. (2) G. B. Jarrett Middle 
East 1942, pp. 54, 91, MS Collection of Col. George 
B. Jarrett (USAR Ret). 

20 Military Attache Rpts 2122 of 6 Jan 42 and 
843 of 23 Feb 42, OKD 451. 25/330.1 and OKD 
45I-25/333-I- 

21 ( 1 ) Ltr, Maxwell to Secy War, 10 Jan 42. 
sub: Progress Report, United States Military North 
African Mission, for the period November 22, 1 94 1 . 
to January 10, 1942, Folder, Middle East (African- 
Levant), OHF. (2) Ltr, Gruver to CG U.S. Mil- 
itary North African Mission, 31 Mar 42, sub: 



The Famous "88" 

The most important enemy weapon 
shipped to the United States from North 
Africa at this early date was the multi- 
purpose German 88-mm. gun. Developed 
primarily as an antiaircraft (Flugabwehr- 
kanone or Flak) gun at the end of World 
War I, the 88 with its long range, its flat 
trajectory, and its excellent sights was also 
extremely useful as a weapon against 
ground forces, especially as an antitank 
{Panzer abwehrkanone or Pak) gun. It 
had been tested in various employments in 
1938-39 during the Spanish Civil War, but 
under such good security that foreign ob- 
servers (including American) could learn 
little about it. 22 

In its antitank role the gun made its first 
real impression on the British when Rom- 
mel used it to repel tank attacks in the June 
1 94 1 Eighth Army Battleaxe operation 
at Halfaya Pass. The British discovered 
then that it could penetrate the thick- 
skinned Matilda infantry tank at distances 
up to 2,000 yards. After the battle a mem- 
ber of Rommel's staff overheard a captured 
British tank driver under interrogation ex- 
pressing his indignation: 

"In my opinion," said the Englishman, 
with an unfriendly glance at a near-by 88, "it 
is unfair to use 'flak' against our tanks." 

A German artilleryman who was sitting on 
his haunches near by, listening to the inter- 
pretation, interjected excitedly, "]a, and I 
think it most unfair of you to attack with 
Progress Report, Ordnance Section, from January 
1 1, 1942, to March 31, 1942, NAMM, Rpts, Tab 64, 
OHF. 

22 ( 1 ) Green, Thomson, and Roots, Planning 
Munitions for War, p. 247. (2) Brig. Gen. Henry 
J. Reilly, "Proving Ground in Spain," Army Ord- 
nance, XIX, 114 (May-June, 1939), P- 334- (3) 
Mark S. Watson, "American Ordnance in Korea," 
Ordnance. XXXV. 186 (May-June, 195O, PP 
569-70. 



MIDDLE EAST KALEIDOSCOPE 



25 



tanks whose armour nothing but an 88 will 
penetrate." 23 

A diabolical employment was made pos- 
sible by the fact that the Germans could 
fire the 88 from its wheels. Several times 
(until the ruse was discovered), Rommel 
enticed the British to attack the gun by 
using as bait an innocent-looking convoy 
composed of a few trucks, with an 88 hid- 
den among them under a paulin. Un- 
masking the 88, the Germans would fire it 
from its wheels, still limbered up, and de- 
stroy the attackers. 24 After Battleaxe, 
the Germans provided the 88 with a half- 
tracked tow vehicle that enabled it to get 
into action against ground targets very 
quickly. They also became even more 
adept at camouflaging it — no easy matter 
for such a big gun. 25 

With only forty-eight of these guns, 
Rommel in the first three days of the Winter 
Battle used them with murderous effect 
against the British armored forces. Major 
Colby, after a trip to the Western Desert in 
late December, reported that the most dan- 
gerous weapon to tanks was the 88-mm. 
gun, firing armor-piercing (AP) ammuni- 
tion. In a single action, the attack on Sidi 
Omar 22 November 1941 , a British brig- 
adier with 51 thick-skinned infantry tanks 
lost 47, most of them to 88-mm. antitank 
fire. By the end of the Winter Battle, out 
of 1,276 tanks sent to Libya, 674 were dam- 



23 ( 1 ) Heinz Werner Schmidt, With Rommel in 
the Desert (London: Harrap, 1 95 1 ) , p. 65. (2) 
J. A. I. Agar-Hamilton and I. C. F. Turner, The 
Sidi Rezeg Battles 1941 (Cape Town: Oxford 
University Press, 1957), pp. 45-46. (3) I. S. O. 
Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle East, II, 
1941 (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 
1956), 173, 429- 

24 Ltr, Col George B. Jarrett to Lida Mayo, 5 
Mar 64. 

25 Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle East 
III, p. 429. 



aged and 274 were destroyed. Rommel's 
Afrika Korps had so crippled the armor 
that the British could not resume the offen- 
sive until May 1942. 26 

During the lull in the desert warfare, 
Jarrett (now a major) visited the wreck- 
age-strewn battlefield near Sidi Rezegh and 
discovered an 88-mm. gun that Rommel 
had been forced to leave behind. Well 
aware of the importance of his find, he be- 
came even more interested when he paced 
off the distance from the gun position to a 
destroyed Matilda tank and recognized the 
88 for the menace it undoubtedly was. The 
big problem was to get the 88 sent to the 
United States. All captured equipment 
went to British shops in Alexandria, and 
the British usually refused to release any 
of it, being so short of weapons that they 
repaired and reused all that they could. 
Somehow Jarrett managed to obtain the 
gun at the yards in Alexandria, and with 
the help of Capt. William E. Summerbell 
of the Military North African Mission and 
a gang of mechanics he took it apart, 
carted it in trucks to Cairo, and got it 
aboard two DC-3 (C-47) airplanes bound 
for Accra. There it was transferred to new 
C-54's, just then coming into service, and 
flown to the United States via Ascension 
Island. When it arrived at Aberdeen Prov- 



89 B. H. Liddell Hart, ed., The Rommel Papers 
(London: Collins, 1953), p. 196. (2) Ltr, Col 
Jarrett to Lida Mayo, 28 Mar 63. (3) Military 
Attache Cairo #2122, 6 Jan 42, and Incl, Rpt 
of Maj Joseph M. Colby on Visit to Western 
Desert, Dec 17 to 23 incl, OKD 451. 25/330.1. 
(4) Connell, Auchinleck, p. 390. (5) Playfair, The 
Mediterranean and Middle East III, 198-99. (6) 
Msg, Military Attache Cairo to War Dept, 12 Jan 
42, sub: Western Desert Tank Situation, File, 
Cables Incoming, Paraphrase of Secret Messages 
1 94 1 (sic). This message notes: "Slow and in- 
adequate repair facilities will cost the British many 
months time before their 674 damaged tanks can 
be rendered action trim." 



26 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




The U.S. 90-mm. and the German 88-mm. Antiaircraft Guns (left and right, 
respectively) at Aberdeen Proving Ground, 1943. 



ing Ground the 88 was put together and 
carefully studied. The findings contributed 
to one of the most important weapon de- 
velopments on the Allied side — the conver- 
sion of the American 90-mm. antiaircraft 
gun to antitank use. 27 



Tank-to-Tank Battle 



the Desert 



On the relative merits of the German 
and Allied tanks used in the desert cam- 
paigns, discussion raged at the time in biv- 



27 Ltrs, Col Jarrett to Lida May( 
5 Mar 64. 



28 Mar 63, 



ouacs and messes and on the terraces of 
Cairo, and continued long after the war to 
rage on paper. A great deal of the argu- 
ment concerned the penetrative power of 
the tank guns employed in the Winter 
Battle: the 2-pounder (40-mm.) guns on 
the British tanks and the 37-mm. on the 
American Stuarts versus the short-barreled, 
low-velocity 50-mm. tank gun, Kwk 
(Kampfwagenkanone) on the main Ger- 
man fighting tank, the Pzkw (Panzer- 
kampfivagen) III. Less was said about 
the short-barreled, low-velocity 75-mm. 
Kwk on the Germans' secondary tank, the 



MIDDLE EAST KALEIDOSCOPE 



27 



Pzkw IV, because it normally fired high- 
explosive (HE) rather than antitank am- 
munition. 

Writing in 1959, Capt. B. H. Liddell 
Hart, a British authority on tanks, con- 
cluded that the 2-pounder was a shade 
superior to the short 50-mm. Kwk and that 
the 37-mm. had considerably better pen- 
etration. He based his conclusion on fig- 
ures published in 1956 in Volume II of the 
official British history, The Mediterranean 
and Middle East, by Maj. Gen. I. S. O. 
Playfair.- 8 But General Playfair in his 
Volume III, after further work on cap- 
tured German documents, revised his fig- 
ures to show that the 2-pounder was not 
superior to the short 50-mm. Kwk and 
that the 37-mm. (using capped ammuni- 
tion) was only slightly better than the 2- 
pounder. 29 All figures on which these vari- 
ous calculations were made were for pen- 
etration of homogeneous armor plate. Be- 
ginning in late 1941 many of the Pzkw 
Ill's and some of the Pzkw IV's had extra 
face-hardened plates that would defeat the 
2-pounder except at very short ranges. At 
the time of the Winter Battle, Eighth Army 
tank gunners complained that their 2- 
pounder shot bounced off German armor. 
Major Jarrett, who tested all German and 
Allied tank guns while he was in Egypt, 
contended that except at very short ranges 
the British and American guns were in- 
effective against both the Pzkw III and the 
Pzkw IV, while the short 50-mm. Kwk 
and the short 75-rnm. Kwk as well, whose 



28 ( 1 ) B. H. Liddell Hart, The Tanks: The 
History of the Royal Tank Regiment and Its 
Predecessors (New York: Praeger, 1959), II, 93, 
154. (2) Agar-Hamilton and Turner in The Sidi 
Rezeg Battles 1941, take much the same position 
as Liddell Hart, and cite Playfair's Volume II. 

29 Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle East 
III, pp. 442-43; for the 37-mm. see p. 28. 



HE shells were capable of damaging tracks 
and bogeys at 2,000 to 3,000 yards, did 
much damage to all Allied tanks except 
the Matildas. 30 

When the desert battles were resumed 
at the Gazala Line with Rommel's attack 
in late May 1942, Eighth Army had 167 
new American tanks of a type far more 
effective than the light Stuarts, which by 
then had come to be employed mainly as 
reconnaissance and observation vehicles. 
The new tank was the M3 Grant. Its ap- 
pearance was rather singular. Mounted in 
the sponson (with very little traverse) was 
the M2 75-mm. field gun with excellent 
high-explosive effect; mounted in the turret 
was the 37-mm. antitank gun. The Grant 
was the only tank to fire both HE and AP 
ammunition. The British crews liked it, 
and the Germans were surprised by the 
thickness of its armor, which enabled it to 
get close enough to inflict deadly shell- 
bursts on infantry and gun crews with its 
75-mm. gun. One German antitank of- 
ficer at Gazala considered the tank more 
nearly a match for the Pzkw III and IV of 
the time than anything the British had yet 
sent into the desert. And the supply- 
seemed inexhaustible. In the British re- 
treat — -the "Gazala Gallop" that enabled 
Rommel to enter Tobruk on 21 June 1942 
— nearly half the 167 Grants were des- 
troyed, mostly by 88-mm. guns, but more 
Grants continued to arrive in Egypt, and 
by the time of the battle of El 'Alamein in 
October 1942 there were 210 Grants in 
Eighth Army. By then, Montgomery also 
had 270 of the best American tank yet 



30 (1) Liddell Hart, The Tanks, II, 93, 156. 
(2) Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle East 
II, p. 343. (3) Playfair, The Mediterranean and 
Middle East III, p. 435- (4) Ltr. Col Jarrett to 
Lida Mayo. 17 Sep 63, and inch 



28 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 





Two Sherman M4 Tanks Moving Toward the Front 



produced — the M4 Sherman, mounting the 
M3 75-mm. gun (with a somewhat longer 
barrel, though little more velocity, than the 
Grant's M2). The 75-mm. gun was 
mounted in the first American 360-degree 
turret. Because of its rather high silhou- 
ette, Rommel's men referred to it as the 
"high-domed" Sherman, but they soon 
learned to respect the "incredibly good" 
armor on its turret. 31 

New German tanks had also begun to 
arrive in the desert by May 1942. The 



31 ( 1 ) Schmidt, With Rommel in the Desert, pp. 
133-34, 185-89. (2) Liddell Hart, The Tanks, II. 
'55- (3) Agar-Hamilton and Turner, Crisis in the 
Desert May- July 1942, p. 67. (4) Playfair, The 
Mediterranean and Middle East III, pp. 243, 437. 
(5) Jarrett. Middle East 1942, p. 173, MS, Jarrett 
Collection. 



first was the Pzkw III Special, which had 
more firepower and better armor and 
which arrived in sufficient numbers to par- 
ticipate in the fighting at Gazala. It had 
the long-barreled 50-mm. Pak 38 antitank 
gun, now designated the Kwk 39; it also 
had "spaced armor" (an extra 20-mm. 
plate bolted four inches in front of the basic 
50-mm. plate on the mantlet), which made 
it remarkably resistant to armor-piercing 
shot. By mid-June the Germans also had 
a few Pzkw IV Specials, mounting the long- 
barreled, high-velocity Kwk 40 75-mm. 
gun — the ominous forerunner of the for- 
midable gun on the Panther tank that was 
to be introduced in Italy. The guns on 
both the "Specials" had considerably higher 
muzzle velocity than those on either the 



MIDDLE EAST KALEIDOSCOPE 



29 



Grant or the Sherman, and also better am- 
munition. But th'ese new tanks were very 
scarce. At the start of the battle of El 
'Alamein on 23 October 1942 the Germans 
had only 88 Pzkw III Specials and 30 
Pzkw IV Specials. 32 

After El 'Alamein Major Jarrett spent 
considerable time examining wrecked 
tanks. He concluded that most of the Ger- 
man tanks destroyed in the battle had either 
been hit during Montgomery's "colossal" 
artillery barrage at the start or had been set 
afire by their own crews when they ran out 
of gas. Finding only a few German tanks 
showing evidence of Allied tank gun hits, 
he was convinced that in tank-to-tank 
battles "the Germans had out-gunned us." 33 
However, German tanks at El 'Alamein 
had been badly outnumbered. Eighth 
Army started the battle with more than 
1,100 tanks and brought up 200 more dur- 
ing the action, while Afrika Korps had 
barely 200 gun-armed German tanks, plus 
280 poorly armed, thin-skinned Italian 
medium tanks that had little effect on the 
outcome. Moreover the German tanks did 
not have complete freedom of maneuver 
because of a gasoline shortage, and their 
power plants were inferior to those on 
American tanks. The mechanical reliabili- 
ty and mobility of the American tanks were 
highly praised by the British, and Mont- 
gomery's skillful use of the plentiful Sher- 
mans in his desert victories at El 'Alamein 
and after, backed by massive artillery bar- 
rages, was so impressive that the U.S. Army 



32 ( 1 ) Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle 
East III. pp. 436, 442-43. (2) Jarrett. Middle 
East 1942. p. 173, MS, Jarrett Collection. (3) 
Liddell Hart, The Tanks, II, 229; for a comparison 
of all tank guns, German and Allied, see table, 
page 98. 

33 Jarrett, Middle East 1942, pp. 174, 182-83, 
MS, Jarrett Collection. 



became committed to the Sherman as the 
main American tank of World War II. 34 

Antitank Weapons and Ammunition 

Whatever the differences of opinion re- 
garding the tanks in the desert battles, there 
was general agreement then and later that 
the German antitank weapons were supe- 
rior to those of the Allies. The 88-mm. 
was Rommel's most spectacular weapon of 
this type, but it was by no means his only 
effective one. Beginning in May 1941 and 
continuing through 1942 the standard 
equipment of German antitank batteries 
was the Pak 38, a long-barreled, high ve- 
locity 50-mm. gun with a penetration near- 
ly half as much again as the British 2- 
pounder antitank gun, and a range in pro- 
portion. It also had an excellent sight that 
gave it great accuracy and was so low to 
the ground that it became almost invisible 
when dug a foot deep into the sand and 
covered with a camouflage net. 35 

The British brought to the desert warfare 
in May 1942 a 6-pounder (57-mm.) anti- 
tank gun, which had a performance about 
30 percent better than that of the Pak 38. 
Much was hoped from "these venomous 
little cannons" ; but because there had been 
too little time for men to train with them, 
the weapons did not always live up to ex- 
pectations. 36 In any case, by the time the 



34 (1) Liddell Hart, The Tanks, II, 229. (2) 
The Germans referred to the Italian tanks as 
rollende Sarge — "mobile coffins." Agar-Hamilton 
and Turner, The Sidi Rezeg Battles 1941, p. 36. 

(3) Liddell Hart, The Rommel Papers, p. 196. 

(4) Jarrett, Middle East 1942, p. 182, MS, Jarrett 
Collection. (5) Green, Thomson, and Roots. Plan- 
ning Munitions for War, pp. 278-83. 

35 ( 1 ) Agar-Hamilton and Turner. The Sidi 
Rezeg Battles 1941, pp. 10, 16, 33, 44-45- (2) 
Crisis in the Desert, p. 1 1. 

36 Liddell Hart, The Tanks, II, 156, 202. 



30 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




Aiming a Bazooka 



6-pounder appeared the Germans had a 
new antitank gun that considerably out- 
matched it. Major Jarrett, riding with a 
British patrol between the British and Ger- 
man lines near Bir Hacheim in March 
1942 was fired on by a German patrol with 
a gun that seemed remarkably accurate. 
After Rommel was driven off, leaving some 
of his weapons behind, Jarrett found that 
the gun was a 76.2-mm. Russian piece that 
the Germans had captured by the thousands 
in the early part of the war and adapted to 
their own use, primarily as a Pak gun. By 
May 1942. 117 of them had arrived at 



Cyrenaica, and some appeared at Gazala 
in a self-propelled version mounted on 5- 
ton half-tracks or on tanks. At El 'Alamein 
the 76.2 effectively supplemented Rommel's 
dwindling supply of 88's — he was down to 
twenty-four 88's in late October 1942. This 
light and efficient gun, sometimes referred 
to as the 76.2-mm. Putilov, was sent to 
Aberdeen Proving Ground and led to the 
serious study there of all Russian materiel. 37 



37 ( 1 ) Ltr, Col Jarrett to Lida Mayo, 29 Mar 
63. (2) Liddell Hart, The Tanks, II, 227-29. 
(3) Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle East 
III, pp. 437, 442-43. (4) The 76.2-mm. gun sent 



MIDDLE EAST KALEIDOSCOPE 



31 



The ammunition used in German anti- 
tank and tank guns contributed much to 
their success. Calibers of 50-mm. and 
larger had armor-piercing caps to help 
penetration and ballistic caps to reduce air 
resistance — a virtue possessed on the Allied 
side only by the shot used in the American 
37-mm. gun. Adapting captured 75-mm. 
APCBC (armor-piercing-capped, ballistic- 
capped) ammunition for use in the Ameri- 
can Grant tank's 75-mm. gun, which meant 
reworking the rotating bands, was a major 
effort in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps 
workshops in preparing for the May 1942 
offensive, an effort to which Major Jarrett 
contributed so largely that he was decorated 
by the British Government. Other very 
effective German antitank rounds were the 
AP-HE (armor-piercing, high-explosive) 
fired by the 88, which had an explosive as 
well as a "hole-punching" effect, and the 
Panzer granate (Pzgr) 40, a tungsten-car- 
bide-cored AP shot fired by most German 
guns, though in small proportions because 
of its scarcity. 38 

In the summer of 1942 the Germans 
began using "hollow charge" ammunition 
to increase the effect of their low-velocity 
guns. This type of ammunition (which 
the Americans called "shaped charge") 
depends on its own explosive action rather 



to Aberdeen Proving Ground had the original 
Russian chamber. Later the Germans rebored the 
chamber to take German 75-mm. Pak ammunition, 
which had a higher velocity than the Russian round. 
Ltr, Col Jarrett to Lida Mayo. 5 Mar 64. 

38 ( 1 ) Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle 
East III, pp. 442-43. 437-38. (2) Ltr. Col Jarrett 
to Lida Mayo, 28 Mar 63. (3) Jarrett. Middle 
East 1942, pp. 158-60, MS, Jarrett Collection. (4) 
For application in the United States of information 
in early reports from North Africa on the failure 
of uncapped AP shot against German face-hard- 
ened armor, see Green, Thomson, and Roots. Plan- 
ning Munitions for War. p. 372. 



than the kinetic energy of the projectile. 
It improved the armor-piercing action of 
the short-barreled 75-mm. Kwk on the 
Pzkw IV, and of the old French 75's of 
World War I vintage that the Germans 
had captured in large quantities at the 
beginning of World War II and converted 
to antitank use by mounting them on the 
Pak 38 carriage. 39 

In September of 1942 a ship from Amer- 
ica docked at Suez with some highly secret 
cargo — 600 bazookas, the first the men in 
the theater had seen. Then known only 
under the code name of The Whip, the 
bazooka (so called because of its re- 
semblance to a musical instrument impro- 
vised by a popular radio comedian of the 
time) was a shoulder projector launching 
an effective 2.36-inch antitank rocket. For 
the first time in history a foot soldier had 
a weapon specifically designed to penetrate 
armor. When Jarrett took a sample to the 
big British ammunition dump along the 
Suez Canal and dissected it, he was amazed 
to find in the rocket the German hollow- 
charge antitank principle; the secret had 
been so well kept that he had not known 
of the similar American shaped charge. 
During a demonstration the bazooka 
proved that at very close ranges it could 
penetrate the 50-mm. armor plate of a 
Pzkw III. 40 



39 ( 1 ) Playfair, The Mediterranean and Middle 
East III. p. 438. (2) Pamphlet, U.S. Army Ord- 
nance Center and School, Things to See at the 
Ordnance Museum (Aberdeen Proving Ground. 
Md.. 1963), p. 23. (3) Green. Thomson, and 
Roots. Planning Munitions for War. pp. 212-13. 
^4) Leslie E. Simon. German Research in World 
War II (New York: J. Wiley and Sons. Inc.. 
1947). pp. 1 18-20. 

40 ( 1 ) Jarrett, Middle East 1942, pp. 158-61, 
and Achtung Panzer: The Story of German Tanks 
in WW II. pp. 160-62. both in MS, Jarrett Col- 
lection. (2) Green, Thomson, and Roots. Planning 
Munitions for War. pp. 357-59. 



32 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




The Priest, a Self-Propelled Howitzer, Egypt 



After the demonstration, the British con- 
cluded that the bazooka was unsuitable for 
desert warfare, since the desert provided 
none of the concealment, such as trees or 
bushes, that the bazooka operator needed 
to hide him from small-arms fire until the 
tank came close enough for his rocket to be 
effective. Therefore they decided, reluc- 
tantly, not to employ bazookas in the 
Middle East, and the shipment was presum- 
ably placed in storage. The first use in 
North Africa was in the Tunisia Campaign 
in the spring of 1943. By then the new 
weapon was no longer a secret to the Ger- 
mans. At the first demonstration in Wash- 
ington, D.C., in May 1942 Soviet observers 
had requested bazookas. Consequently, a 



large shipment arrived in the USSR about 
the same time as the arrival of the ship- 
ment to Egypt. Apparently the Germans 
captured a bazooka in the Soviet Union 
very soon thereafter and copied it in a 
larger size, providing it with an 88-mm. 
rocket. This copy, known as the Panzer- 
schreck, was superseded by the Panzerjaust, 
which was to do much damage in Europe 
in 1944-45. 41 



41 ( 1 ) Ltr, Col Jarrett to Lida Mayo, 20 May 
66. (2) Green, Thomson, and Roots, Planning 
Munitions for War, pp. 358-59. (3) Simon, Ger- 
man Research in World War II, pp. 187-88. (4) 
For performance of the Panzerfaust in Europe, 
see below, p. 333. 



MIDDLE EAST KALEIDOSCOPE 



33 



Applying the Lessons 

Thanks to very early reports on Rom- 
mel's use of antitank guns in the desert 
battles, Montgomery had at El 'Alamein 
an American self-propelled antitank gun, 
which the British called the "Priest" be- 
cause of its pulpitlike machine gun plat- 
form. It had been hastily devised in the 
United States by mounting a 105-mm. 
howitzer on an M3 tank chassis. Informa- 
tion from the desert gave great impetus to 
the "tank destroyer" program already 
initiated by the Ordnance Department; 
also, it convinced Army Ground Forces 
planners, including Lt. Gen. Lesley J. 
McNair, commanding general of AGF, 
that the proper adversary of the tank was 
the antitank gun rather than another tank, 
a conviction that to some extent hindered 
Ordnance in developing a more powerful 
tank than the Sherman. This was one 
example of a tendency among U.S. Army 
planners to apply the early experience of 
the Allies without enough imagination or 
flexibility. To cite another example, the 
British experience with the Germans' dead- 
ly antitank Teller mines in Libya led to an 
ambitious program in the United States for 
developing an effective mechanical mine 
exploder along the lines of the British Scor- 
pion, a program that consumed much 
money and effort and contributed little to- 
ward solving the mine problem. 42 



On the other hand, Americans learned 
valuable lessons in the desert. First tested 
in the desert were not only tanks and anti- 
tank guns and ammunition but also new 
developments such as gyrostabilizers that 
enabled the tank to fire while moving. 
Some of the Shermans that arrived in 
Egypt in the fall of 1942 were equipped 
with the gyrostabilizers — an early model 
not yet tested in combat. Also, Americans 
gained useful experience on trucks and tank 
transporters, the latter an early British in- 
vention that was to play an important part 
in Europe, not only as a tank transporter 
but as a cargo carrier. And the desert con- 
tinued to be most productive in captured 
enemy materiel; for example, shells of the 
170-mm. gun, which was to inflict much 
damage later in Italy, were first examined 
after El 'Alamein. Following Jarrett's 
pioneer efforts, an Ordnance seven-man 
team went to Cairo in the summer of 1942 
and sent by ship to Aberdeen Proving 
Ground about 3,000 tons of assorted mate- 
riel for study. This team was the fore- 
runner of the Ordnance Technical Intel- 
ligence Teams later sent to all theaters, 
beginning with North Africa in December 
1942. 43 



42 (1) Col. H. W. Miller, "After the Tank, 
What?," Army Ordnance, XXVI, 142 (January- 
February, 1944), p. 87. (2) Green, Thomson, and 
Roots, Planning Munitions for War, pp. 315, 389- 
94. (3) See also below, p. 331. 



43 (1) Jarrett, Middle East 1942, pp. 80-83, 
170-71, 183, MS, Jarrett Collection. (2) Green, 
Thomson, and Roots, Planning Munitions for War, 
pp. 262, 342-43. (3) On tank transporters, see 
below, pp. 122, 343. (4) Lt. Col. G. Burling Jarrett, 
"Desert Salvage: An Account of the First U.S. Am- 
munition Detachment in Africa," Army Ordnance. 
XXV, 140 (September-October, 1943), p. 354. 



CHAPTER III 



Early Arrivals in Australia 



After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 
spotlight swung away from the Middle 
East. For the next three weeks it focused 
on the west coast of the United States and 
the Alaska-Hawaii-Panama triangle, where 
defenses had to be bolstered. Following the 
arrival of British Prime Minister Churchill 
in Washington at the end of December, it 
began to swing back toward the North 
Atlantic. In January, the shock of the 
crisis in the Far East, where the Philippines 
were threatened, brought about another 
quick shift of emphasis. The spotlight then 
focused on Australia, where, with the dra- 
matic arrival of the Pensacola convoy in late 
December 1941, the Americans had begun 
to build up a logistical base. 1 

The Pensacola Convoy 

The U.S. naval transport Republic, just 
returned from carrying troops to Iceland, 
sailed from San Francisco for the Philip- 
pines on 21 November 1941 with the 
ground echelon of the 7th Heavy Bombard- 
ment Group, an Army Air Forces unit of 
B-17 bombers dispatched to bolster Gen- 
eral MacArthur's air strength. The B-17's, 
which could be flown across the Pacific, 
were then being prepared for the long flight 
at Hamilton Field, California. Taking off 



on 6 December, they were over Oahu in 
the midst of the attack on Pearl Harbor. 2 
Among the ground elements of the bom- 
bardment group aboard the Republic was 
the 453d Ordnance (Aviation) Bombard- 
ment Company, one of three types of Ord- 
nance companies designed to support the 
three types of air groups — bombardment, 
pursuit, and air base. Normally, an Ord- 
nance bombardment company consisted of 
6 officers and 181 enlisted men, and its 
equipment was considerable: 40 bomb 
trailers and 20 bomb service trucks to haul 
them, 4 shop trucks for emergency repairs, 
and 18 cargo and pickup trucks; but the 
453d still did not have its full complement 
of men and equipment since there had 
been only ten days for preparation. Its 



1 Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and 
Strategy, 1 940-1 943, pp. 165-67. 



2 ( 1 ) Brig Gen Julian F. Barnes, Report of 
Organization and Activities, U.S. Forces in Aus- 
tralia, December 7, 1 941 -June 30, 1942 (hereafter 
cited as Barnes Rpt), p. 8, photostat copy, OCMH. 
(2) Ltr, Byrne C. Manson to Lida Mayo, 2 Jul 
56, Manson File, OCMH. (3) Wesley F. Craven 
and James L. Cate, eds., "The Army Air Forces 
in World War II," vol. I, Plans and Early Opera- 
tions: January 1939 to August 194s (Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press, 1948), 199-200 
(hereafter cited as AAF I). (4) The Barnes Re- 
port and the Manson File, consisting of Man- 
son's personal files and correspondence between 
Manson and the author have been relied upon 
throughout this chapter. Other principal sources 
have been two volumes in the series UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II, both by 
Louis Morton: The Fall of the Philippines (Wash- 
ington, 1953) and Strategy and Command: The 
First Two Years (Washington, 1962). 



EARLY ARRIVALS IN AUSTRALIA 



35 



commander, ist Lt. Byrne C. Manson, who 
had been attending the Ordnance School 
at Aberdeen, Maryland, had joined the 
company on i November. 3 

Arriving at Honolulu on 28 November, 
the Republic on the 29th joined a convoy 
being escorted by the cruiser Pensacola and 
the submarine chaser Niagara. Other 
vessels in the convoy were three other trans- 
ports, the Chaumont, the Meigs, and the 
Holbrook, and three freighters, the Admiral 
Halstead, the Coast Farmer, and the Bloem- 
fontein, the last flying the Dutch flag. 
Of the transports, only the Republic and 
Holbrook carried troops and equipment. 
The Chaumont and the Meigs carried air- 
craft, bombs, guns, antiaircraft ammuni- 
tion, and general supplies; the entire deck 
space of the Meigs was crowded with fifty 
knocked-down A-24 dive bombers. The 
small freighters were mainly loaded with 
peacetime supplies for civilian shops in 
Manila and Guam. The Bloemfontein 
also carried passengers, mostly civilians, 
some of whom were en route to China and 
the Java area to serve as consultants in 
setting up motor maintenance shops. 4 

Proceeding at approximately ten knots, 



3 ( 1 ) Capt. John F. Foy, "The What and Why 
of Aviation Ordnance," The Ordnance Sergeant, 
II (December, 1 94 1 ) , 372-80. (2) Inch to Ltr, 
Byrne Manson to Lida Mayo, 15 Feb 55, Manson 
File. 

4 ( 1 ) For the importance at this time of the 
maintenance of lend-lease trucks on the Burma 
Road to China, see above, p. 15. (2) For the efforts 
of the Dutch to bolster their defenses in the Nether- 
lands Indies, including the construction of air bases 
on Java with trucks and other lend-lease materiel, 
see Maj. Gen. S. Woodburn Kirby, "History of the 
Second World War, United Kingdom Military 
Series," The War Against Japan, vol. 1, The Loss 
of Singapore (London: Her Majesty's Stationery 
Office, 1957), pages 72-76, and Leighton and Coak- 
Iey, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1 940- 1 943 , page 



the speed of the slowest freighters, the Pen- 
sacola convoy took a southwesterly course 
toward the Philippines through the South 
Pacific instead of the usual westerly course 
through the Japanese mandated islands. 
Commander Guy Clark, the captain of the 
Republic, told Brig. Gen. Julian F. Barnes, 
the senior Army commander, that the 
course was to be via Port Moresby, New 
Guinea. On 6 December the convoy 
crossed the equator, and there was the 
largest Army shellback initiation up to that 
time. 

On 7 December at 1100 Commander 
Clark received a radio message that Pearl 
Harbor was being attacked. He assumed 
that a radio operator had picked up a 
message issued during naval maneuvers, 
but a later message from the Commander 
in Chief, U.S. Asiatic Fleet, left no room 
for doubt: "Japan started hostilities gov- 
ern yourself accordingly." Over the Re- 
public's intercom, Commander Clark made 
the announcement: "Attention all hands, 
a state of war exists between Japan and the 
United States. Pearl Harbor has been 
attacked. Good luck." 

In the next few days the convoy pre- 
pared to defend itself. Brown and white 
superstructures and lifeboats were painted 
gray. Cargo was searched for deck weap- 
ons, since most of the ships had no means 
of defense. The hold of the Republic 
yielded four British 75-mm. guns, which 
the men of the 453d lashed to the deck, 
although there was no ammunition for 
them. Tension in the convoy mounted 
when a radio reported a Japanese task 
force in the Ellice Islands, 300 miles off 
the starboard quarter. A stop at Suva in 
the Fiji Islands, ordered by the Navy on 8 
December for the purpose of awaiting 



36 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



further orders, made possible a search for 
additional weapons. The Ordnance men 
found some American 75-mm. ammunition 
on the Holbrook and improvised gun sights 
and mounts. They also found a quantity 
of .50-caliber aircraft guns with ammuni- 
tion, and improvised pipe stands for them 
on the boat deck. 5 

On 12 December the American troops 
aboard the convoy were constituted Task 
Force South Pacific, under the command 
of General Barnes. General Barnes 
appointed Lieutenant Manson Ordnance 
officer and Lt. W. R. Clarke commander 
of the Ordnance company. Soon after- 
ward, messages from Washington and from 
the Philippines made the task force's desti- 
nation and mission clear. It was to pro- 
ceed to the east coast of Australia and land 
at Brisbane, where it would be met by Maj. 
Gen. George H. Brett, an Air Corps officer 
then in Chungking. Brett had been 
directed to establish in Australia a service 
of supply in support of the Philippines. 
His assistant was to be Brig. Gen. Henry 
B. Claggett, who had held an air command 
in the Philippines and was on his way to 
Australia from Manila. Upon debarka- 
tion at Brisbane, Task Force South Pacific 
would become United States Forces in 
Australia (USFIA). 

The convoy arrived at Brisbane's outer 
harbor, Moreton Bay, at noon on 22 
December, escorted by Australian and New 
Zealand warships. From Moreton Bay, a 
sheet of blue water broken by small green 
islands and edged by palm-fringed yellow 



5 ( i ) Ltr, Byrne Manson to Lida Mayo, 2 Jul 
56. (2) For indecision in the United States on the 
fate of the convoy, which had very nearly been 
ordered back to Hawaii on 9 December, see Mor- 
ton, Strategy and Command, pages 148-51. 



beaches, Brisbane is fourteen miles up the 
Brisbane River. A harbor boat brought 
Col. Van S. Merle-Smith, U.S. military 
attache, and some Australian Army and 
Navy officers to Moreton Bay and took 
General Barnes and a small staff to Bris- 
bane, where they established USFIA head- 
quarters, the first American headquarters 
in Australia, at Lennon's Hotel late in the 
afternoon of 22 December. A logistical 
and administrative command, it came 
under General MacArthur's United States 
Army Forces, Far East (USAFFE). That 
evening General Claggett arrived, assumed 
command of USFIA, accepted the staff 
established aboard the Republic, and desig- 
nated Barnes his chief of staff. General 
Brett, who was completing his tour of the 
Middle East, India, and China, did not 
arrive from Chungking until 1 January 
1942. 

As the Pensacola and her convoy 
steamed upriver, the men at the rails saw 
cheering crowds along the banks. A city 
of some 300,000 people, Brisbane is set in 
an amphitheater of greenish blue hills. It 
sprawled for miles on either side of the 
river, the two portions connected by bridges 
and small darting ferry launches. There 
were a few tall granite buildings and smok- 
ing factories, but the city was somehow 
reminiscent of a frontier town in the Wild 
West, with pillared porticoes extending 
over sidewalks in the business section and 
low corrugated iron roofs covering ware- 
house sheds. The men at the rails saw 
palms everywhere, and strange flowers in 
the public gardens. Strangest of all, a few 
days before Christmas it was midsummer in 
Australia. For Brisbane, halfway down 
the eastern coast, is subtropical, lying be- 
tween the sparsely settled tropical north 



EARLY ARRIVALS IN AUSTRALIA 



37 



and the great cities of Sydney and Mel- 
bourne on the more moderate southeastern 
coast. 

The troops debarked on the afternoon of 
23 December and were taken to temporary 
quarters at Amberley Field and two local 
race tracks. The 453d Ordnance (Avia- 
tion) Bombardment Company was assigned 
to the Doomben race track about six miles 
from the city. The Australian Army pro- 
vided tents and messing facilities. By 26 
December storage arrangements for Ord- 
nance equipment had been completed in 
the Hedley Park area, where Class II sup- 
plies (weapons and other basic equipment) 
were stored in a wool warehouse and 
ammunition in the yard of a local school. 7 

General Claggett's first task was to get 
the cargoes of the Pensacola convoy north 
to the Philippines in the Holbrook and the 
Bloemfontein, the two fastest ships. With 
the help of Australian stevedores, the U.S. 
troops reloaded men and supplies and 
assembled the aircraft, working straight 
through a warm and sunny Christmas Day, 
taking time out only for a Christmas dinner 
of cold bologna sandwiches and milk. By 
30 December the ships were loaded and 
steaming north, but enemy successes in the 
Philippines and the rapid Japanese advance 
into the Netherlands Indies made it impos- 
sible for them to get through. When 



8 ( 1 ) A History of the U.S.S. Pensacola with 
Emphasis on the Years She Served in the Pacific 
During World War II (San Francisco: Phillips 
and Van Orden Co., Inc., 1946), p. 17. (2) 
Charles W. Domville-Fife, Australian Panorama 
(Bristol: Rankin Bros., n.d.), pp. 101-10. Pat 
Robinson, The Fight for New Guinea, General 
Douglas MacArthurs First Offensive (New York: 
Random House, 1943), p. 13. 

7 (0 History of G-4, USAFIA, 7 Dec 41-Jul 
42, pp. 1-2. (2) History of Ordnance Section. 
USASOS, 23 Dec 41-2 Sep 42, p. 1. 



General Brett arrived in Brisbane on New 
Year's Day, he ordered the convoy to put 
in at Darwin, on the northern coast of 
Australia. 8 

Last-Ditch Efforts To Aid 
MacArthur 

Beginning in early January, an intensive 
effort was made to ship rations and ammu- 
nition to General MacArthur's troops 
in the Philippines in small, fast ships that 
might break the Japanese blockade. At 
the end of January, forty enlisted men and 
several officers of the 453d Ordnance Com- 
pany at Brisbane volunteered to serve as 
an armed guard for the blockade runner 
Don Isidro. From the enlisted men, fif- 
teen were selected by Clarke, the com- 
manding officer. To determine who would 
command the unit, the officers tossed a 
coin, and 2d Lt. Joseph F. Kane won. 
Kane and his men began to arm the Don 
Isidro, which was a small passenger liner 
that had operated between islands of the 
southwest Pacific. Since no other suitable 
guns or mounts were available, they placed 
five .50-caliber heavy machine guns on the 
ship, improvising the mounts with the help 
of a local manufacturer. 

The ship left Brisbane on 27 January. 
North of Australia she was attacked by 
Japanese aircraft and after two successive 
days of bombing and strafing, 19-20 
February, was beached on Bathurst Island, 
north of Darwin. A mine sweeper rescued 
the survivors. Eight of the 15-man crew 
from the 453d Ordnance Company were 
wounded, several seriously. Kane, severely 
wounded in the leg and foot, died of gan- 



AAF Historical Studies 9, The AAF in Austra- 
lia in 1942, Air University, Maxwell AFB, p. 13. 



38 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



grene in an Australian hospital at Darwin. 
He was the first member of the Ordnance 
Department killed in the Southwest Pacific; 
an ammunition depot at Geelong, across 
the bay from Melbourne, was subsequently 
named for him. The rest of the men from 
the Don Isidro were attached to a platoon 
of the 453d that Manson had sent up to 
Darwin to help establish an air service 
depot at Batchelor Field in support of air 
units operating between there and the 
Netherlands Indies. 9 

Two weeks after the Don Isidro left Bris- 
bane another detachment of volunteers 
from the 453d Ordnance Company was 
assigned as gun crew to the small freighter 
Coast Farmer for a trip to the Philippines. 
Sailing from Brisbane on 10 February, the 
Coast Farmer succeeded in reaching Min- 
danao in the southern Philippines, dis- 
charging its cargo, and returning safely. 
One member of the Ordnance group who 
had gone ashore to repair some machine 
guns did not return before the ship sailed 
and had to be left behind. 10 



9 (1) History of Ord Sec, USASOS, 23 Dec 41- 
2 Sep 42. (2) Rad, Melbourne to AGWAR, No. 
311, 22 Feb 42, AG 381 (11-27-41) Sec 2C. (3) 
Rpt of Ord Activities, USAFIA, Feb-May 42, 
OHF. (4) Official History of Headquarters USA- 
SOS, December 1 941 -June 1945 (hereafter cited 
as History USASOS), pp. 92-93, and chs. viii-xi. 
(5) Lieutenant Kane received the Purple Heart 
posthumously. All of the enlisted men of the 453d 
Ordnance (Aviation) Bombardment Company 
aboard the Don Isidro also received the Purple 
Heart for manning their guns until they were put 
out of action, for extinguishing fires caused by the 
bomb explosions, and for helping the wounded 
(some despite their own wounds). GO 28, USASOS 
SWPA, 11 Oct 42, 98-GHQ 1 -1. 1 3. These men were 
among the last to receive the Purple Heart "for a 
singularly meritorious act of essential service," ac- 
cording to AR 600-45 of 8 August 1932. Change 4 
to AR 600-45, 4 September 1942, restricted the 
award to those wounded in action against the enemy 
or as a direct result of enemy action. 

10 ( 1 ) History of Ord Sec, USASOS, 23 Dec 



Planning the American Base 

General Brett saw little hope of sending 
any effective help to the Philippines. He 
favored building a base in Australia from 
which the offensive could eventually be 
taken through the Netherlands Indies and 
the islands to the north. Hurrying to Mel- 
bourne, which was more nearly the actual 
center of government than the new capital, 
Canberra, he established his headquarters 
there on 3 January in three rooms in Vic- 
toria Barracks, the location of Australian 
military, air, and naval headquarters. 
Brett immediately began a series of con- 
ferences with the Australian chiefs of staffs 
that resulted in the formation of several 
joint committees and in the emergence of 
a general policy on how best the American 
forces could be used and where. 11 

General Brett's main base would have to 
be near a port and near a city, for it needed 
docks, water, power, and good communica- 
tions; these were not conflicting demands, 
for all major Australian cities are port 
cities. The interior of the great continent 
is arid and undeveloped. The seven mil- 
lion people lived mostly along the eastern 
and southeastern coast, more than two mil- 
lion of them in Sydney and Melbourne. 
Sydney was ruled out by the Australian 
naval chief of staff as an American Army 
and Air base because of existing demands 
and an extreme water shortage. The 
choice of the Australians was Melbourne, 
which they considered easier to defend than 
Brisbane and other areas farther north. 

General Brett preferred Brisbane. Fol- 
lowing instructions from the War Depart- 

41-2 Sep 42, pp. 1-2. (2) History USASOS, p. 93. 
(3) Rpt of Ord Activities, USAFIA, Feb-May 42, 
p. 1. 

11 Craven and Cate. AAF I, pp. 231-32. 



EARLY ARRIVALS IN AUSTRALIA 



39 



merit to adapt his logistical plan to strategic 
requirements, Brett decided to place all of 
his bases in the north rather than in the 
south. The primary base depot, for the 
assembly, repair, and maintenance of all 
types of aircraft, was to be at Brisbane. 
There would be a secondary base depot, 
for the assembly of light aircraft and such 
repairs and maintenance as were possible, 
at Townsville, a small resort town some 
700 miles up the east coast. The advance 
depot and main operating and first-line 
maintenance base would be at Darwin, a 
little tropical town on the northern coast 
that had recently become important be- 
cause it was the nearest jump-off point for 
the Netherlands Indies — within three and 
a half hour's flying time to the nearest 
point in the Indies. The main debarka- 
tion point for U.S. troops would be Mel- 
bourne, preferred to Brisbane because of 
the greater facilities available, particularly 
water supply. At Melbourne a reception 
and replacement center would be estab- 
lished where organizations could be formed 
out of the new arrivals and training given 
if necessary. 

While the Americans and Australians 
were conferring, the British and U.S. Gov- 
ernments established a command that in- 
cluded Burma, Malaya, the Netherlands 
Indies, and the Philippines. Called the 
ABD A ( American - British- Dutch - Austra- 
lian) Command, it was under Lt. Gen. 
Sir Archibald Wavell with General Brett 
as his deputy. In the second week in 
January Brett departed for the Netherlands 
Indies. His successor in Australia was 
Maj. Gen. Lewis H. Brereton, but within 
a few days Brereton was made deputy air 
commander in the ABDA area, which 
meant that he had to go to Java to com- 




Colonel Holman. (Photograph taken 
after his promotion to brigadier general. ) 

mand ABDAIR pending the arrival of the 
commander, Air Marshal Sir Richard 
Peirse. This made it physically impossible 
for Brereton to continue command of 
USFIA, now renamed USAFIA (United 
States Army Forces in Australia ) . At 
Brereton's request, General Wavell asked 
General Marshall to relieve Brereton of his 
responsibilities in Australia. Thereupon 
Marshall authorized General Barnes to 
assume command of USAFIA. Barnes 
was now under Wavell's command, and 
Brett as Wavell's deputy could issue orders 
to him. 

At Melbourne, the Ordnance Section of 
USAFIA was headed by Lieutenant Man- 
son, who had come from Brisbane, leaving 
Lieutenant Clarke in charge of the Ord- 
nance office there. Only a few officers to 
form general and special staffs for the new 
headquarters had arrived, flying to Aus- 



40 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



tralia via North Africa, but they brought 
the news that the headquarters group had 
been "picked with care" by the War 
Department and was on the way. 12 

The men selected for the USAFIA head- 
quarters were dubbed the "Remember 
Pearl Harbor" (RPH) Group. Consist- 
ing originally of thirteen experienced staff 
officers ordered to San Francisco from 
assignments all over the country, the group 
sailed on the two liners President Coolidge 
and Mariposa in the first major convoy 
sent to Australia after Pearl Harbor. 
Aboard the President Coolidge were the 
Ordnance members of the RPH Group — 
five officers and six enlisted men who were 
to make up the Ordnance Section on the 
USAFIA Special Staff. The ranking 
officer was Lt. Col. Jonathan L. Holman, 
whose most recent assignment had been in 
the Lend-Lease Administration in Wash- 
ington. The others were Capts. Bertram 
H. Hirsch and Elwyn N. Kirsten, ist Lt. 
Spencer B. Booz, and 2d Lt. Wallace W. 
Thompson. 13 

Along with the Remember Pearl Harbor 
Group the two liners, loaded to capacity, 
carried pursuit planes and large quantities 
of bombs, ammunition, and aircraft main- 
tenance equipment and supplies, as well as 
signal and medical supplies and equipment. 
Troops aboard the ships included AAF, 
Engineer, and Signal units, and four Ord- 
nance aviation companies. Most of the 
passengers and cargo were scheduled to be 
transshipped to ABDA area ports outside 
Australia. A great deal of the cargo was 



intended for troops slated to occupy New 
Caledonia. 14 

When the Coolidge anchored in Mel- 
bourne harbor on the afternoon of 1 Feb- 
ruary, Colonel Holman, standing at the 
rail of the huge liner, looked down at the 
dock and saw a small officer anxiously- 
looking up and biting his fingernails. It 
was Manson. In addition to the heavy- 
responsibilities that had been forced upon 
him, he had a more recent cause for worry. 
The 453d Ordnance (Aviation) Bombard- 
ment Company had been ordered from 
Brisbane to Melbourne by train to join the 
four Ordnance aviation companies aboard 
the Coolidge and the Mariposa on the voy- 
age to Java, but had suffered a series of 
mishaps on the way. Rains following a 
long period of dry weather had brought 
floods that prevented the train from getting 
through. Lieutenant Erickson, who was 
in command (Clarke had been assigned to 
the base section at Brisbane), had got the 
men and equipment off the train and 
loaded in the company trucks, but by that 
time the roads were impassable, and they 
had to return to Brisbane. 13 

The immediate task of Holman's RPH 
staff and the Ordnance companies in the 
convoy was to help tackle the problem 
posed by the cargoes of the Coolidge and 
the Mariposa, including about 2,500 tons 
of bombs and ammunition. Unloading 



12 Ltr, Moore, DCofS to Brett, 19 Dec 41, copy 
in OCT HB, SWPA Organization File. 

13 ( 1 ) Orders and correspondence dealing with 
the RPH Group are in AG 370.5 ( 18 Dec 41 ) (4). 
(2) Interv, Stanley Falk with Maj Gen Jonathan 
L. Holman and Lt Col Elwyn N. Kirsten, 8 Oct 54. 



14 ( 1 ) Memo, Col C. P. Gross, Chief, Transporta- 
tion Br, G-4, for CG. San Francisco Port of Em- 
barkation, 31 Dec 41, sub: Vessels to Accompany 
Convoy to "X." (2) Memo, Gross for CG, SFPOE, 
1 Jan 42, sub: Distribution of Space on Coolidge 
and Mariposa. Both in AG 400 (12-31 -41). (3) 
Memo, Brig Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower, ACofS 
WPD, for TAG, 18 Feb 42, sub: Information for 
CG USAFIA Re Poppy [New Caledonia] Force, 
AG 381 (11-27-41) Sec 2B. 

15 Interv with General Holman, 12 Apr 56. 



EARLY ARRIVALS IN AUSTRALIA 



41 



and unscrambling the materiel piled on the 
piers and removing it from the dock area 
to storage took about ten days. Ware- 
houses were scarce. Ammunition could be 
stored in the open, and open storage was 
soon in widespread use throughout Austra- 
lia because of lack of materials and labor 
to construct igloos. The men established 
a temporary dump for bombs, fuzes, and 
small arms ammunition in the Laverton 
area of Melbourne and used a shed about 
a mile from the port for classification and 
sorting. Kensington, a Melbourne suburb, 
was selected for the storage of general sup- 
ply items. After some degree of order was 
restored, the four Ordnance aviation com- 
panies sailed for Java. 

Colonel Holman remained in Melbourne 
only long enough to see that the unloading 
of Ordnance material was proceeding well 
and to establish the Ordnance office in the 
Repatriation Building on tree-shaded St. 
Kilda Road. He had been ordered north 
to ABDA Command headquarters on Java. 
Appointing Captain Hirsch Ordnance 
officer, he departed for Darwin on 8 Feb- 
ruary. He arrived on 19 February, only 
a few hours after the little port had suffered 
its first Japanese air attack; his immediate 
job was to help American artillery troops 
then at Darwin in the difficult task of plan- 
ning for the salvage and repair of Ord- 
nance equipment from bombed and sunken 
ships. The enemy raid was portentous, for 
by that time invading Japanese forces had 
ended Allied hopes of holding Java. 
ABDA Command headquarters withdrew 
from the island. The convoy with the four 
Ordnance companies, then at sea off the 
southern coast of Australia, was rerouted to 
India. Colonel Holman returned to Mel- 
bourne where, on 25 February, he became 



the USAFIA chief of Ordnance. 16 

Port Operations 

In the early months of 1942, a great 
deal of the time of the USAFIA Ordnance 
Office was devoted to port operations. Be- 
tween mid-January and mid-April, sixty- 
one "refugee" ships — ships at sea when the 
war began, bound for the Philippines, 
Hongkong, Singapore, or Java — were 
diverted to Australian ports, with "distress 
cargoes" amounting to nearly 200,000 tons 
of rations, ammunition, weapons (mostly 
machine guns), vehicles, and parts. Late 
in February the Poppy Force of about 
22,000 troops — the largest movement yet 
attempted — landed in Australia, ultimately 
bound for New Caledonia. The heavy 
organizational equipment and other sup- 
plies of Poppy Force were shipped sepa- 
rately, and these cargoes had to be un- 
loaded and then reloaded when the force 
left for New Caledonia. Cargoes had been 
loaded by hasty, untested methods and 
were badly scrambled. Manifests were 
vague, incomplete, or so inaccurate as to 
make a physical search necessary. 17 

The Australian stevedores available to 
help unload were usually middle-aged men. 



19 ( 1 ) History of Ord Sec, USASOS, 23 Dec 
41-2 Sep 42, pp. 2-3. (2) Interv, Falk with Hol- 
man and Kirsten. (3) Rpt of Ord Activities. 
USAFIA, Feb-May 42, p. 1 

17 ( 1 ) James R. Masterson, U.S. Army Trans- 
portation in the Southwest Pacific Area, 1941- 
1947 (hereafter cited as Masterson, Trans in 
SWPA), Monograph 31, Transportation Unit, His- 
torical Division, SSUSA, October 1949, pp. 255- 
66, 268-69, OCMH. (2) Rpt of Ord Activities, 
USAFIA, Feb-May 42. (3) Army Service Forces. 
Control Division, Development of the United 
States Supply Base in Australia, the Period of 
Defense and Build-up (hereafter cited as Dev of 
U.S. Supply Base in Australia), pp. 24. 55-58. 
MS. OCMH. 



42 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



capable of handling not more than 9 tons 
per hatch per hour, as compared with the 
25 tons that the U.S. troops could dis- 
charge. Their ways were exasperating. 
They had a break in the middle of the 
morning for smoking — called a "smoke-o" 
— and another in the afternoon for tea, 
with one man on the pier delegated to keep 
the water hot for the tea; in this manner, 
one impatient Ordnance officer noted, they 
wasted two or three hours a day. They 
would not work in the rain and observed 
strict union regulations on hours, refusing 
to work on Saturday afternoons or Sun- 
days, even though ships were docking with 
badly needed supplies, and threatening to 
strike when troops were assigned to do the 
emergency unloading. 18 

Ordnance officers at the ports found that 
local laborers and untrained troops could 
make tragic mistakes in handling military 
stores, a discovery of this early period that 
assumed greater importance as overseas 
operations accelerated all over the world. 
Lacking Ordnance Standard Nomenclature 
Lists (SNL's) and technical manuals, often 
they could not identify weapons, ammuni- 
tion, and parts. They sometimes over- 
looked vital parts. The men loading the 
Pensacola convoy ships for the Philippines, 
for example, had spent days searching for 
the trigger motors and solenoids that con- 
trolled the firing of the guns on the A-24 
dive bombers so desperately needed by 



18 ( 1 ) Report, Information Furnished by Colonel 
Henry, Chief Ordnance Officer, Port of Embarka- 
tion, San Francisco, Relative to His Inspection 
Trip Throughout the South and Southwest Pacific 
(5/25/43) (hereafter cited as SWPA Rpt (Hen- 
ry)), Folder, SWPA Report (Col William J. 
Henry), OHF. (2) Lt Gen. George R. Brett with 
Jack Kokoed, "The MacArthur I Knew," True 
(October, 1949), p. 26. 



General MacArthur. Afterward it was 
discovered that the solenoids, nailed inside 
the packing crates, had been overlooked 
and had been burned along with the crates. 
Replacements had to be rushed by air from 
the United States. 19 

For port duty the 453d Ordnance (Avia- 
tion) Bombardment Company was divided 
among three ports. The main body of the 
company (less ninety men) was at Bris- 
bane, with one platoon at Darwin and 
another at Melbourne. The 453d con- 
tinued to be the only Ordnance unit in 
Australia until mid-March, when there 
began to arrive the first elements of a 
shipment of nine Ordnance aviation com- 
panies; one antiaircraft medium mainte- 
nance company (the 25th); and sections 
of a depot and an ammunition platoon, all 
sent from the United States in response to 
a request by General Brett in January for 
Ordnance troops. He had requested more 
depot, ammunition, and maintenance men 
than were sent, but the planners in Wash- 
ington, intent at the time on reinforcing 
the British Isles and thinking of Australia 
as an air base only, had not been able to 
comprehend the size of the port operations. 
Moreover, the planners had originally in- 
tended to depend heavily on local labor, 
not realizing that during three years of war 
the best of Australia's manpower had been 
drained off to the Middle East and else- 
where. It took the threat of a collapse of 
ABDA to bring about a change in War 
Department policy, and the dispatch of 



19 (1) Rads, Australia to AG, No. 723, 16 Mar 
42, Maj Gen James A. Ulio, TAG, to CG USA- 
FIA, Nos. 784 and 786, 21 Mar 42, all in AG 471 
(10-1-41), Sec 2. (2) Inter/ with Captain L. B. 
Coats . . . , 21 Apr 42, AAF, 385-E Methods- 
Manners-Conducting Warfare. (3) Arnold, Global 
Mission, p. 290. 



EARLY ARRIVALS IN AUSTRALIA 



43 



more Ordnance troops to aid in building 
up the base in Australia. 20 



20 ( i ) Rpt of Ord Activities USAFIA, Feb-May 
42. (2) Memo, Eisenhower for TAG, 16 Feb 42, 
sub: Units and Supplies to be Dispatched to 



Sumac, AG 381 (11-27-41) Sec 2B. (3) Ltr, 
AG to CG American Forces in Australia, 20 Dec 
41, sub: G-4 Administrative Order — Plan X, AG 
381 (12-20-41). (4) DF's, Maj Gen Brehon B. 
Somervell to WPD, 15 Feb 42, and to G-3, 18 
Feb 42, sub: Tables of Organization for "X," both 
in G-4/33861. 



CHAPTER IV 



The Base in Australia 



After the bombing of Darwin on 1 9 Feb- 
ruary, Japanese air attacks were expected 
anywhere in Australia, at any time, possi- 
bly as a prelude to invasion. Americans 
felt the tension in the streets of Melbourne, 
crowded with refugees from Java, Malaya, 
and Singapore and U.S. Army trucks and 
soldiers, and darkened at night with a 
brownout. On the primitive Australian 
trains, where they dimmed the antiquated 
gas lamps and lay down on leather benches 
that pitched and rolled, Ordnance troops 
felt that they were headed toward combat 
zones. Raids on Darwin did continue for 
some time, and several took place on the 
northwestern coast at Broome and Wynd- 
ham. At Broome on 3 March, 35 or 40 
people were killed (mostly refugees from 
the Netherlands Indies) and 20 aircraft 
were destroyed. 1 



1 ( i ) Unless otherwise indicated the material in 
this chapter has been based on the following: History 
USASOS, cited above ch. Ill, 119(4); History of 
Ordnance Section USASOS December 1941-Sep- 
tember 1942; Reports of Ordnance Activities. 
USAFIA, February-May 1942 and June 1942, 
OHF; Reports of Ordnance Activities, USASOS 
SWPA, July-October 1942, OHF. (2) Memo, Maj 
Bertram H. Hirsch for COrdO, 21 May 42, sub: 
Report of Inspection of Ordnance Services, Estab- 
lishments and Co-ordination With Other Services 
thereafter cited as Hirsch Rpt). (3) Ltr, Hirsch 
to COrdO. USAFIA, 6 May 42. Last two in 
AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections, KCRC. 
(4) Dudley McCarthy, South-West Pacific Area- 
First Year: Kokoda to Wau, Series i (Army), V, 
of "Australia in the War of 1 939-1 945" (Can- 
berra: Australian War Memorial, 1959), 75~77. 



The Japanese, having occupied Rabaul 
in January, on 8 March moved into Lae 
and Salamaua on the upper coast of east- 
ern New Guinea, which put them in easy 
bombing distance of Port Moresby, the 
chief Australian outpost in New Guinea, 
about 700 miles across the Coral Sea from 
Townsville. This was the situation when 
General Mac Arthur arrived in Australia 
from the Philippines on 17 March. That 
same day he was named by the Australian 
Government as its choice for Supreme 
Commander of the Southwest Pacific Area 
(SWPA) and on 18 April officially 
assumed command of the new theater. 
MacArthur filled the top positions on his 
staff with the men who had come with him 
from Corregidor and who had served with 
him in USAFFE. In addition to the exist- 
ing American commands, consisting of 
USAFFE (now a shadow command), 
United States Forces in the Philippines 
(USFIP), and USAFIA, MacArthur 
established three tactical commands within 
SWPA. These were Allied Land Forces 
under an Australian, General Sir Thomas 
Blarney; Allied Air Forces under General 
Brett; and Allied Naval Forces, also under 
an American, Vice Adm. Herbert F. Leary. 
American ground forces were assigned to 
USAFIA but came under General Blarney 
for operational employment. 2 



* Morton, Strategy and Command: The First 
Two Years, pp. 247-55. 



THE BASE IN AUSTRALIA 



45 



With the limited forces at his command, 
there was little General MacArthur could 
do for some time to come beyond checking 
the enemy's advances toward Australia, 
protecting land, sea, and air communica- 
tions in the theater, and preparing for later 
offensives. For the time being, air opera- 
tions against the Japanese on New Guinea 
and Rabaul and protection of Australian 
airfields, coastal cities, and shipping were 
the main effort. Support of air as well as 
port operations was the first major task of 
the USAFIA Ordnance office. 3 

Rounding Up Weapons 
and Ammunition 

Weapons and ammunition were urgently 
needed to arm aircraft and defend airfields, 
coastal cities, and ships, but little help could 
be expected immediately from the United 
States. The automatic system of Class II 
and IV supply set up by the first War 
Department plan for Australia, dated 20 
December 1941, was aimed at building up 
a 60-day level by 1 March 1942 and was 
raised in early February to a 90-day level, 
but it soon broke down for lack of shipping 
and supplies. In any case it would take 
time for the system to be effective and 
there was an inescapable time lag involved 
in the long voyage from San Francisco. 
From the first, War Department policy 
called for American commanders in Aus- 
tralia to obtain locally as many items as 
possible, and for this purpose Holman had 
brought with him credits for $300,000 in 
Ordnance funds. Only partially used, and 

3 (1) Craven and Cate, AAF I, pp. 408-19. (2) 
Interv with Holman and Kirsten, 12 Apr 56. (3) 
For Australian impressions of MacArthur — "out- 
standing in appearance and personality"— see Mc- 
Carthy, South-West Pacific Area — First Year, 
Kokoda to Wau, p. 18. 



later reimbursed by SWPA, these funds 
were of major importance in the early days 
in Australia. Part went into services and 
materials for storing the ammunition that 
came in the Co olid ge and the Mariposa. 
Ammunition, which was supplied automat- 
ically for the first six months of 1942, did 
not present as serious a problem as weap- 
ons, though requests were made for more 
bombs and ammunition for aircraft and 
ground machine guns, antiaircraft guns, 
and small arms. 4 

After 21 February 1942 all local pro- 
curement was done by the American 
Purchasing Commission, established by 
General Barnes to co-ordinate and control 
all USAFIA purchasing, prevent competi- 
tion, fix priorities, and work with U.S. 
naval authorities. The commission was 
composed of a representative from each 
technical service and had a Quartermaster 
chairman. The Ordnance member was 
Maj. Bertram H. Hirsch. Unfortunately, 
Australia's resources after three years of 
war were meager. According to General 
Brett, "There was plenty of money avail- 
able to purchase what we wanted, but 
heartbreakingly little of what we wanted 
and needed." 5 



4 ( 1 ) Ltr, AG to CG American Forces in Austra- 
lia, 20 Dec 41, sub: G-4 Administrative Order — 
Plan X, AG 381 (12-20-21). (2) Ltr, TAG to 
CG Field Forces et al., 22 Jan 42, sub: Supply of 
Overseas Departments, Theaters and Separate Bases, 
AG 400 (1-17-42). (3) Memo, Somervell for 
AG, 1 Mar 42, sub: Ammunition Supply Infor- 
mation for Australia, G-4/33861 sec IV. (4) 
Barnes Rpt, cited above, ch. Ill, 2n(i). (5) Incl 
to Ltr, Maj Gen Jonathan L. Holman (USA Ret) 
to Brig Gen Hal C. Pattison, CMH, 3 Oct 63 
(hereafter cited as Holman Comments 2), OCMH. 

5 (i) Barnes Rpt, app. 19, Historical Record, 
General Purchasing Agent for Australia, pp. 1-3; 
app. 15, Account of the QM Section, p. 8. (2^ 
Brett, "The MacArthur I Knew," True (October, 
1949), P- 27- 



46 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



The men on Holman's staff had to 
round up weapons wherever they could. 
In response to a request by General Brett 
in March to arm Air Forces ground per- 
sonnel with rifles and machine guns, Hol- 
man got about 10,000 Enfields from 
distress cargoes and salvaged machine guns 
from wrecked aircraft, improvising mounts 
for them. To bolster seacoast defenses, the 
Australians had some lend-lease 155-mm. 
guns of World War I vintage. Captain 
Kirsten, who was an expert on antiaircraft 
weapons, and M. Sgt. Delmar E. Tucker of 
Holman's office helped convert these guns 
into coast artillery by supervising their in- 
stallation on Panama mounts and instruc- 
ting Australian personnel in their opera- 
tion. This was an effort that continued 
throughout most of 1942. Tucker, a 
specialist on artillery, was so good in his 
field that he was offered a commission in 
Artillery, and so loyal to Ordnance that he 
turned down the offer. He also made a 
fine contribution, along with Captain 
Kirsten, to the early and very important 
ship arming project. 6 

Ship Arming 

Australia had always depended heavily 
on coastal shipping because its railways and 
highways were inadequate even in peace- 
time. Railroads ran along the coast, with 
feeder lines branching into the vast and 
mostly uninhabited interior, but there were 
no through trains in the American sense, 
for lines linking the populous states of 
Queensland, New South Wales, and Vic- 
toria had different gauges, so that every 



6 (1) Interv with Holman and Kirsten, 12 Apr 
56. (2) Memo, Maj Elwyn N. Kirsten for Col 
Holman, 7 Sep 42, no sub, OHF. 



time a state line was crossed, men and 
freight had to change trains. Australia 
had no major highways suitable for long- 
distance haulage; such roads as existed 
were fit only for light traffic. Once the 
Americans began building the logistical 
bases, coastal shipping between Australian 
ports became even more important, and 
after the Japanese threat to Port Moresby 
in March 1942, ship traffic northward in- 
creased immeasurably. 7 

The theater's early need for ships and 
still more ships was partially met by the 
temporary retention of transpacific mer- 
chantmen arriving from San Francisco, but 
it very soon became plain that USAFIA 
would have to acquire a local fleet to move 
troops, equipment, and supplies within the 
theater. A beginning was made when 
twenty-one small Dutch freighters, which 
had formerly operated in the Netherlands 
Indies and had taken refuge in Australian 
ports after the fall of Java, were chartered 
from their owners, the Koninklijke Paket- 
vaart Maatschappij (KPM). The KPM 
vessels formed the backbone of the "X" 
fleet of small freighters on which men and 
cargoes were carried between Australian 
ports, north to Port Moresby, New Guinea, 
and eventually around the southern coast of 
New Guinea north as far as Cape Nelson. 
USAFIA also discovered the need for a 
fleet of shallow-draft vessels that could 
navigate among coral reefs and use primi- 
tive landing places far up the coast of New 
Guinea and in the outlying islands. For 
this purpose it obtained from the Austra- 
lians a miscellaneous collection of luggers. 



7 (i) S. J. Butlin, War Economy 1939-1942, 
Series 4 (Civil) III, of "Australia in the War of 
1 939- J 945" (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 
1955). 397-98. (2) AAF Study No. 9, pp. 34-36. 



THE BASE IN AUSTRALIA 



47 



rusty trawlers, old schooners, launches, 
ketches, yawls, and yachts, which became 
known as the "S" fleet, sometimes called 
the "catboat flotilla." Both of these make- 
shift fleets were under Army control and 
remained so because the U.S. Navy, which 
theoretically operated all seagoing vessels in 
theaters of operations, maintained that it 
did not have the resources to do so in 
SWPA. 8 

The "X" and "S" fleets sailing out of 
Australian ports were heading into danger- 
ous waters and had to be armed against 
enemy action. A large share of this re- 
sponsibility, as well as the main responsi- 
bility for inspecting and servicing ships' 
guns at the ports, fell on USAFIA Ord- 
nance. The U.S. Navy was unable to help 
in the early days, and the efforts of the 
Royal Australian Navy were restricted to 
vessels assigned to the theater by the British 
Ministry of Transport, including most of 
the KPM ships and several others of the 
"X" fleet, but excluding ships of American 
registry. 9 

Providentially there arrived in Australia 
in the spring of 1942 a shipment of weap- 
ons that could be used on the USAFIA 
fleets, particularly on the large and grow- 
ing "S" fleet. The shipment had been 
dispatched from the United States in mid- 



8 ( 1 ) Joseph Bykofsky and Harold Larson, 
The Transportation Corps: Operations Overseas 
UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
(Washington, 1957), pp. 430, 448-53. (2) Memo, 
Kirsten for Chief Ordn Officer USASOS, 18 Feb 
43, sub: Ship Arming (hereafter cited as Kirsten 
Memo), Folder H-15-S. 13 May 43, OHF. (3) On 
the question of Army versus Navy operation of the 
local fleet in SWPA, see Robert W. Coakley and 
Richard M. Leighton, Global Logistics and Strategy, 
'943-i945< a volume in preparation for UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II, ch. XIX. 
"Shipping in the Pacific War." 

8 Kirsten Memo. 



February under the UGR Project initiated 
shortly after Pearl Harbor by Col. Charles 
H. Unger for the purpose of arming small 
vessels to be used in running the Japanese 
blockade of the Philippines. By the time 
the shipment arrived the Philippines had 
fallen. USAFIA's Small Ships Supply 
Section fell heir to the weapons — fifty 105- 
mm. howitzers, fifty 37-mm. antitank guns 
on M4 carriages, five hundred .30-caliber 
machine guns on Cygnet mounts, and a 
quantity of miscellaneous equipment. 10 

The 105-mm. howitzers of the UGR 
Project were intended to be exchanged for 
75-mm. guns in the hands of troops already 
in Australia; the 75's would then be em- 
ployed in ship armament. Forty-nine 75- 
mm. guns were rounded up from theater 
resources. Of these, eight had been on 
board a ship beached during the Japanese 
raid on Darwin on 19 February. After 
being under water for thirty-nine days, the 
guns were salvaged, completely overhauled 
under the supervision of Sergeant Tucker, 
and sent to Melbourne for ship armament. 
Only sample ship mounts for the 37's and 
75's had come from the United States. 
Holman's staff took the samples to Austra- 
lian firms, supervised the manufacture of 
mounts and adapters, and then used Ord- 
nance troops to remove the guns from their 
carriages and place them on the mounts. 
Because they considered the Cygnet mount 
for the .30-caliber machine gun unsuitable, 
the USAFIA Ordnance men designed a 
pedestal type of mount that would take 
either the .30-caliber machine gun or its 
preferred replacement, the .50-caliber 
machine gun, and had about 200 manu- 
factured in Melbourne. On the small ship 
project. Ordnance worked closely with the 



Ibid. 



48 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



group headed by Colonel Unger, who had 
over-all responsibility for small ship pro- 
curement and operation. 11 

The overworked USAFIA Ordnance 
troops continued to service British, Dutch, 
and Australian weapons as well as Amer- 
ican. Some help came from Australian 
maintenance experts and from Australian 
Navy facilities, but this aid was not entirely 
satisfactory, and an acute shortage of 
American maintenance units complicated 
the task. 12 

Ordnance Forces Spread Thin 

The main problem of the USAFIA Ord- 
nance officer was manpower — "first, last, 
and always." 13 To supply Ordnance serv- 
ice at far-flung installations on the rim of 
the island continent stretched his resources 
to the utmost. By 3 March 1942 the 
USAFIA commander had established six 
base sections: Base Section 1 at Darwin, 
Base Section 2 at Townsville, Base Section 
3 at Brisbane, Base Section 4 at Melbourne, 
Base Section 5 at Adelaide on the southern 
coast, and Base Section 6 at Perth on the 
west coast; and soon afterward, Base Sec- 
tion 7 at Sydney. Acting as service com- 



11 (1) Ibid. (2) Intervs, Mayo and Falk with 
Holman and Kirsten. (3) Memo, Somervell for 
TAG, 15 Feb 42, sub: Armament for Small Ships, 
G-4/33861. (4) Incl to 1st Ind, General Holman 
to CofOrd, 15 May 56, Comments on Southwest 
Pacific Campaign Histories (hereafter cited as 
Holman Comments 1), OHF. 

12 ( 1 ) DF with Memo for Record, Somervell to 
TAG, 3 Mar 42, sub: Spare Parts and Accessories 
for Armament of Ships in Convoy Service to X, 
G-4/33861 sec IV. (2) Kirsten Memo. (3) For 
an example of the difficulties involved when Amer- 
ican maintenance work was turned over to Austra- 
lian civilians, see Brett, "The MacArthur I Knew," 
True (October, 1949), p. 26. 

13 Interv, Falk with Holman and Kirsten, 8 
Oct 54. 



mands and communications zones, the base 
sections received, assembled, and forwarded 
all U.S. troops and supplies, and operated 
ports and military installations. Until 
early April, when 1 7 technicians and clerks 
from the United States reported to 
Holman's office and ground Ordnance 
units began to arrive, the technical person- 
nel that could be spared from aviation 
Ordnance units were placed on special duty 
to work at the ports. 

The nine Ordnance aviation companies 
that began arriving in mid-March were 
immediately dispersed to support their 
combat or air base groups. By the end of 
April there were air base groups in the 
Townsville, Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, 
and Darwin areas, and small servicing 
details at Adelaide and Perth. Combat 
operations were centered in the north. 
Moving to the Darwin and Townsville 
areas, where Royal Australian Air Force 
(RAAF) airfields were being supplemented 
by fields constructed by U.S. Engineers, 
bombardment and pursuit groups took 
their own Ordnance companies with them. 
As the groups sent out squadrons to cover 
the danger areas on the northern coast, 
Ordnance aviation companies were divided 
into platoons to accompany them. 14 

The story of the 445th Ordnance (Avia- 
tion) Bombardment Company exemplifies 
the strain placed on aviation companies. 
Two platoons accompanying the 49th Pur- 
suit Group ( the first group to get into oper- 
ation in Australia) when it moved from 
Sydney into the Darwin area in mid-March 
were split up in order to serve squadrons of 
the 49th at different landing strips. This 
duty consisted of unbelting, oiling, polish- 
ing, and rebelting all ammunition each 



AAF Study No. 9, pp. 47~53, 94~95- 



THE BASE IN AUSTRALIA 



49 



night, and stripping, oiling, and polishing 
all guns every third night. At the begin- 
ning of May, one of the platoons was 
attached to the 71st Bombardment Squad- 
ron and sent to operate the ammunition 
dump at Batchelor Field. This air termi- 
nal was forty miles south of Darwin, so 
far from any port or railhead that Quarter- 
master supplies could not get through and 
the men had to obtain much of their meat 
by hunting. In mid-May a fourth platoon 
of the 445th was sent to New Caledonia. 1 ' 

Dispersion of Ground Reinforcements 

When the first large increment of ground 
Ordnance troops arrived the second week 
in April, it also was widely dispersed. 
The troops had been sent from the United 
States to support the first ground reinforce- 
ments sent to Australia. The reinforce- 
ments, dispatched as a result of a mid- 
February warning message from General 
Wavell, commander of ABDA, that the loss 
of Java might have to be conceded, con- 
sisted of about 25,000 troops, including the 
41st Infantry Division and 8,000 service 
troops of which 700 were Ordnance — one 
medium maintenance company, one depot, 
and two ammunition companies. Early in 
March, after the collapse of ABDA, a sec- 
ond infantry division, the 32d, was sent to 
Australia at the request of Prime Minister 
Churchill, who wanted to avoid bringing 



15 ( 1 ) Ibid., pp. 107, 129-30. (2) Ltr, 2d Lt 
Morris F. Miller to Col Holman, 22 May 42. (3) 
Ltrs, Maj Harry C. Porter to Ord Officer, USA- 
FIA, and to Ord Officer, USAAS, 1 1 Jun 42, sub: 
Report on Ordnance Activities in North-West 
Area. (4) Memo, Capt J. C. Werner for Col 
Holman, 23 Jun 42, sub: General Report on Trip 
Through Base Sections 3, 2, 1 and 5 (hereafter 
cited as Werner Rpt). Last four in AFWESPAC 
Ord Sec 333 Inspections, KCRC. 



an Australian division home from the then 
critical Middle East battle zone. The 32d 
Infantry Division brought with it another 
medium maintenance company. These 
were the last reinforcements of any size to 
arrive in Australia for some time to come, 
despite urgent requests by General Brett 
for many more ground units, including 
Ordnance units up to three ammunition 
battalions, three maintenance and supply 
battalions, and three depot companies. 
There were not enough men available in 
the United States or ships to carry them. 16 
The Ordnance companies that arrived 
with the main body of the 41st Division at 
Melbourne the second week in April were 
the 37th Ordnance Medium Maintenance 
Company, the 84th Ordnance Depot Com- 
pany, and the 55th and 59th Ordnance 
Ammunition Companies. The 84th Depot 
Company established at Seymour (north 
of Melbourne) the first Ordnance general 
supply depot in Australia. Soon the new 
arrivals were scattered all over Australia. 
The 37th Ordnance Medium Maintenance 
and the 55th Ordnance Ammunition Com- 
panies were sent to Brisbane to provide 
service to air and antiaircraft units there 
and at Base Section 2 at Townsville. The 
84th, for many months the only depot com- 
pany in Australia, furnished an officer and 



16 ( 1 ) Rads, AG from Australia, No. 491, 4 Mar 
42, and No. 623, 12 Mar 42, AG 381 (1 1-27-4), 
sec 3. (2) Memos, Brig Gen John H. Hilldring, 
ACofS G-i for TAG, i4 Feb 42, subs: Officer 
Personnel Requirements to Place the Australian 
SOS in Operation, and Enlisted Personnel Require- 
ments .... both in G-i/ 1 6368-42. (3) Memo. 
Eisenhower for TAG. 7 Mar 42, sub: Request 
for Additional Personnel and Supplies, AG 381 
(11-2-41), sec 3. (4) Memo, Lt Col Clarence 
H. Schabacker for Col Ott, 5 Mar 42, no sub, 
in Movement Orders, 4656, AGF, RG 400 A 46- 
169. (5) MatlofT and Snell, Strategic Planning for 
Coalition Warfare: ^41-42, pp. 128-31. 



50 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



five enlisted men to form the Ordnance 
Section of Base Section 7 at Sydney, where 
distress cargoes, chiefly Dutch, were piling 
up. The 84th also supplied a detachment 
to operate a general supply depot at Ade- 
laide on the south coast, the headquarters 
of the 32d Division. 17 

The 1 1 8th Ordnance Medium Mainte- 
nance Company, commanded by 1st Lt. 
Frederick G. Waite, arrived with the 32d 
Division. The company landed without 
its tools, equipment, repair trucks, or parts, 
but the young commander managed to 
acquire some distress cargo tools at the 
Adelaide port. In the circumstances, 
Waite remembered later, the job of sup- 
porting the division "was not done as well 
and as thoroughly as we desired, or as the 
combat troops had a right to expect" but 
"did get done after a fashion." In addi- 
tion, he had to send detachments to aid 
port operations at Sydney, an antiaircraft 
regiment at Perth, and the task force at 
Darwin. 18 

It took the most careful planning by 
Colonel Holman's office to make the best 
use of the very scarce Ordnance troops. 
The depot and ammunition sections that 
had arrived in March were organized into 
the 360th Ordnance Composite Company, 
activated on 1 May, and sent about 100 
miles north of Adelaide to operate at one 
of the transshipment points on the overland 
route to Darwin. Between Darwin and 



17 (1) History of the 84th Ord Depot Co. (2) 
Hirsch Rpt. 

18 ( 1 ) Lt Col Frederick G. Waite. Ordnance 
Service Support Problems in Tropical Warfare. 
Paper submitted to the faculty of the Armed Forces 
Staff College, Norfolk, Va., May 1950, MS, Armed 
Forces Staff College Library, copy in OHF. (2) 
History USASOS. chapter on Base Sec 5. (3) 
Holman considered Waite "an outstanding officer 
in every way." Holman Comments 2. 



the cities of the eastern and southern coasts 
there was a gap in the railroad line of as 
much as 600 miles. This had to be 
bridged by truck or air transport. The 
25th Ordnance Medium Maintenance 
(AA) Company was given the job of sup- 
porting the 41st Infantry Division, but be- 
cause this company was especially experi- 
enced in antiaircraft artillery, it had small 
detachments at Brisbane, Townsville, and 
Perth working on fire control instruments 
and instructing other Ordnance companies 
in that kind of maintenance. Out of the 
effort at Townsville grew the very impor- 
tant Townsville Antiaircraft Ordnance 
Training Center directed by the com- 
mander of the 25th, Capt. William A. 
McCree. 19 

The necessity of splitting Ordnance com- 
panies into detachments placed a severe 
drain on organic unit equipment. A single 
machine shop truck might be adequate for 
the work of a medium maintenance com- 
pany, but when the company was split into 
detachments operating in four separate 
areas the men would need four trucks in- 
stead of one; an aviation bombardment 
company would need additional truck 
cranes; an ammunition company, a larger 
supply of tarpaulins. All required more 
messing equipment, and also water trailers 
for operations in a country where water 
was scarce. Mobile equipment operating 



18 ( 1 ) On the composite company, see WD LO, 
12 Feb 42, to CG's, Hawaiian Dept and USAFIA, 
sub: Constitution and Activation of Units, in 
Movement Orders. 5691, AGF, RG 400 A-45-169; 
and Ltr with Incl, Capt P. H. Mulcahy to Ord 
Officer USAFIA, 11 Jun 42, sub: Alice Springs. 
AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections. KCRC. 

(2) Interv with Holman and Kirsten. 12 Apr 56. 

(3) Rpt, Final Report of Lt Col William A. 
McCree (hereafter cited as McCree Rpt). in Field 
Service Key Personnel Rpts, OHF. 



THE BASE IN AUSTRALIA 



51 



over poor roads, or none at all, required an 
ample supply of spare parts. 20 

A Huge Continent With 
Poor Transportation 

For the first five months of 1942, the one 
factor primarily affecting supply in Austra- 
lia was transportation. This is amply illus- 
trated by the story of the early effort to 
transport ammunition from southern and 
eastern ports to Darwin. It had to be sent 
overland because the sea lanes to Darwin 
were insecure, and the hardships reminded 
one observer of the attempt to forward 
supplies over the Burma Road. 21 

From Adelaide the rail line north 
stopped at Alice Springs, which seemed to 
one Ordnance officer a comparatively large 
community for the outback — "actually 
several houses and even curbs along the 
street." From there, supplies were carried 
forward in trucks operated by the Austra- 
lians. About six hundred miles north, at 
Birdum — one small building and three tin 
shacks — there was a railroad to Darwin, 
but it had small capacity, was antiquated 
and in poor repair, and was chiefly useful 
in the rainy season when the dirt road, in 
some places only bush trail, was washed 
out. 



20 ( 1 ) These needs were not limited to Ord- 
nance, but reflect difficulties experienced by all 
the technical services operating in Australia. ASF, 
Cntrl Div, Dev of U.S. Supply Base in Australia, 
pp. 50-54. (2) Col Frank A. Henning, Rpt on 
Supply Operations in Australia, Sep 42 (hereafter 
cited as Kenning Rpt) . 

21 ( 1 ) Bykofsky and Larson, The Transportation 
Corps: Operations Overseas, p. 481. (2) Cable, 
Melbourne to AGWAR No. 224, G-1/1 6368-40 
(2-13-42). The observer was Col. Patrick J. Hur- 
ley (former Secretary of War and former Ambas- 
sador to New Zealand), whom General Marshall 
had sent to Australia to study blockade-running to 
the Philippines. 



From Brisbane to Darwin, a distance of 
2,500 miles, the railroads ran only as far 
as Mount Isa, a small settlement that re- 
minded some Ordnance officers of a min- 
ing town in Arizona or Nevada. There, 
supplies were transshipped to Birdum by 
Australian truck companies. Assuming 
cargo space was available — not always a 
safe assumption — a shipment normally took 
about ten days. In early February one 
load of 18,000 75-mm. shells was delayed 
for ten days and finally arrived without 
fuzes. It took another eight days to find 
the fuzes and deliver them by air. 22 

Beginning in March regulating stations 
were established along the routes to Dar- 
win, but the length of time supplies were in 
transit and the probability of losses en route 
made necessary extra supplies to fill gaps in 
the supply line. General Barnes warned 
Washington that particular attention would 
have to be given to ammunition shipments 
from the United States because of the large 
distribution factor involved in long hauls 
and poor transportation. 23 

Looking for "lost" Ordnance supplies 
and troops, reconnoitering for depot and 
shop sites, the RPH officers who had 
arrived with Colonel Holman spent weeks 
at a time in the field, furnishing aid and 
comfort to harassed officers at remote sta- 



22 (1) Werner Rpt. (2) Ltrs, Porter to Ord 
Officer USAFIA and Ord Officer USAAS, 1 1 Jun 
42, sub: Report on Ordnance Activities in North- 
West Area; Incl 1, Report on Alice Springs, to 
Ltr, Mulcahy to Ord Officer USAFIA. 1 1 Jun 42, 
both in AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections, 
KCRC. (3) Hirsch Rpt. (4) Ltr, Hirsch to COrdO 
USAFIA. 6 May 42, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 
Inspections, KCRC. 

23 (1) Rad, Melbourne to AG, No. 161, 5 Feb 
42. AG 381 (n-27-41) sec 2A. (2) Because the 
sea lanes were subject to attacks by the Japanese, 
water shipments to Darwin were not possible before 
October 1942. Bykofsky and Larson, The Transpor- 
tation Corps: Operations Overseas, p. 482. 



52 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




Convoy of Trucks Near Mount Isa, Queensland 



tions. "Believe me," Major Hirsch re- 
ported to Colonel Holman, "there's nothing 
these chaps like better than to have a staff 
officer out in the hush, making passes at the 
flies on their faces and eating dust with 
their food." These officers often tra- 
versed country so treeless and desolate that 
by comparison the American desert seemed 
"a garden of Eden." But sometimes there 
were diverting adventures. Reconnoiter- 
ing for an ammunition depot near Rock- 
hampton, Major Hirsch received unex- 
pected help from a bushman who "di- 
vined" for water with a forked stick; and 
on a survey trip from Rockhampton to 
Coomooboolaroo, Hirsch flushed two kan- 



garoos at which he took a few shots with 
his 45.- 4 

Geelong and the Ordnance 
Service Centers 

Availability of transportation played an 
important part in the selection of the first 
important Ordnance installation in Austra- 
lia. The ammunition that began piling 
up on the docks at Melbourne in February 



24 ( i ) Ltr, Hirsch to COrdO USAFIA, 6 May 
42. (2) Memo, Hirsch to COrdO USAFIA, 30 
Jul 42. Both in AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspec- 
tions, KCRC. (3) See also similar reports, same 
file, from Kirsten. Booz, Thompson, and others. 



THE BASE IN AUSTRALIA 



53 



and was dispersed around the city soon 
presented such a hazard that a safer place 
had to be found for it. With the help of 
the Australian Army's Land Office, Hirsch 
was able to acquire a site across the bay 
from Melbourne at Geelong. The loca- 
tion was excellent because ammunition, 
which was loaded first in ships for better 
ballast and therefore unloaded last, could 
simply be retained after the other supplies 
were unloaded at Melbourne and sent 
around to Geelong in the same ship. 
When the 25th Ordnance Medium Main- 
tenance Company (AA) landed in Bris- 
bane in mid-March, the main body of the 
company (less detachments dispatched to 
the four corners of Australia in support of 
antiaircraft units) was sent to Geelong to 
establish Kane Ammunition Depot. 25 

Out of the Geelong installation grew 
Holman's concept of the Ordnance service 
center, which included not only storage 
(wholesale and retail) but maintenance 
shops where a great deal of reclamation 
and salvage work was done: everything 
possible was saved from wrecked equip- 
ment, put into serviceable condition, and 
reissued. Moreover the center was to be- 
come a staging area for Ordnance troops 
and supplies that came there direct from 
the ports instead of moving through a gen- 
eral staging area. When Ordnance troops 
came off the ships they were sent immedi- 
ately to a service center, where they got a 
hot meal and a bed. And they could be 
put to work at the center if their equip- 
ment had not come with them, as was 
often the case. Early in January General 
Brett had urged that basic essential equip- 



ment be sent on the same ship with the 
units, or at least in the same convoy, but 
the War Department then, and for six 
months to come, considered it wasteful of 
shipping space. The 25th Ordnance 
Medium Maintenance Company, for ex- 
ample, had arrived without its shop trucks 
containing its tools and machinery and for 
that reason had been given the job of start- 
ing the ammunition depot. 1 ' 1 

At an Ordnance service center Holman 
could organize, train, control, and use 
Ordnance troops as he thought best. The 
opportunity for direct control and flexibil- 
ity was to prove of great value, not only in 
the early days when Ordnance units 
arrived slowly and infrequently from the 
United States but later when small teams 
such as those for bomb disposal and tech- 
nical intelligence came in. Instead of 
being lost in a large general base, they 
were under Ordnance control from the 
start and were kept on Ordnance jobs. 
Geelong became the model for the Coopers 
Plains Ordnance Service Center at Bris- 
bane, the first well-developed first-class 
activity of this kind, which set the standard 
for future operations. The concept was so 
successful that it remained in effect in the 
Southwest Pacific throughout the war. 
After Holman became Chief of Staff, 
Headquarters U.S. Army Services of Sup- 
ply (USASOS), in October 1943, he was 
instrumental in having the service center 
concept applied to other technical services 
as well as Ordnance.-' 7 



25 ( 1 ) Interv with Holman and Kirsten, 12 Apr 
56. (2) McCree Rpt. 



20 (1) Interv with Holman and Kirsten, 12 Apr 
56. (2) McCree Rpt. (3) Air Corps units were 
also hampered by the failure to unit load. AAF 
Study 9, p. 39. 

27 ( 1 ) Interv with Holman and Kirsten, 12 Apr 
56. (2) Holman Comments 1. 



54 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Working With the Australians 

Fine co-operation by the Australian 
Army's Land Office, plus the benefits of 
reverse lend-lease, made possible the estab- 
lishment of a number of Ordnance installa- 
tions by summer 1942. The Australians 
helped in the location of ammunition de- 
pots, which according to the Ordnance 
supply plan were to be established in the 
western districts of each base section; after 
Kane, the most important was the depot 
at Darra, near Brisbane. In the populous 
areas around Melbourne, Adelaide, and 
Sydney, the Australians provided industrial 
buildings for depots and shops, mostly wool 
warehouses, some of them with good con- 
crete floors and traveling cranes, and in 
less industrialized areas, wool sheds, school- 
houses, small automobile shops and ware- 
houses, a rambling frame orphanage, and 
an old dance hall. Some of these build- 
ings had their disadvantages. In trans- 
forming one wool shed into an Ordnance 
maintenance shop, the Engineers had to 
shovel their way through a "mixture of 
dirt, old wool, hides and manure and the 
place stunk to high Heaven." 28 

Ordnance officers found their opposite 
numbers in the Australian Army eager to 
co-operate. They provided not only depot 
sites but trucking and other services and 
facilities for training and maintenance. In 
schools conducted by the Australian Army, 
men of the three Ordnance medium main- 
tenance companies, for example, received 
early training in British 40-mm. Bofors 
antiaircraft guns and fire control equip- 



ment, and aviation Ordnance men learned 
about bomb disposal. In the Brisbane and 
Townsville areas, where facilities were ex- 
panding late in the spring, Australian main- 
tenance shop officers had instructions to do 
work for Americans under the same sys- 
tem and priority as for Australians. Late 
in May Colonel Holman was planning to 
help make up for the lack of a heavy main- 
tenance company, which had been re- 
quested from the United States but not 
received, by using a large fourth echelon 
repair shop then being built by the Aus- 
tralians at Charters Towers, eighty-three 
miles inland from Townsville. 29 

When lend-lease Ordnance supplies and 
equipment began to arrive in quantities in 
June, Holman's men helped unload and 
distribute them, instructed Australian 
troops in maintenance, and provided the 
technical data requested by Australian 
Army authorities, who were keenly inter- 
ested in all U.S. weapons, ammunition, and 
equipment brought into the theater. By 
the end of May the USAFIA Ordnance 
office was planning a definite project for 
servicing American lend-lease tanks; and 
experimental work was already under way 
at Australia's Armored Fighting Vehicles 
School at Puckapunyal near Seymour. 30 

Throughout the spring, Australian facto- 
ries, shops, and other possible sources of 



28 (1) Hirsch Rpt and other Inspection Reports. 
AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections, KCRC. (2) 
Memo, Hirsch for COrdO, USAFIA, 30 Jul 42, 
AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections,' KCRC. 



29 ( 1 ) Holman Comments 1. (2) Memo, Kirsten 
for Holman, 3 Jun 42 [report on trip to Base 
Sections 3 and 7, 26-30 May], AFWESPAC Ord 
Sec 333 Inspections, KCRC. (3) Hirsch Rpt. 
(4) McCree Rpt. 

30 (1) Memo, J. L. H. [Jonathan L. Holman], 
14 Jun 42, in Henning Rpt, Tab B and p. 16. 
(2) Memorandum Covering Inspection Trip to 
Seymour June 2, 1942, 3 Jun 42; (3) Memo, 
Thompson for Holman, 17 Jun 42, sub: Inspec- 
tion Trip to A.F.V., Puckapunyal, Vic, 16 Jun 
42. Last two in AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 In- 
spections, KCRC. 



THE BASE IN AUSTRALIA 



55 



supply were thoroughly explored by the 
USAFIA Ordnance men. They found a 
plentiful supply of cleaning and preserving 
materials, lumber, paints and oils, gas for 
welding, and fire-fighting equipment; some 
standard motor parts; and a limited supply 
of abrasives, cloth and waste, tool steel, 
and maintenance equipment and tools. 
Moreover, the Australians were able to 
manufacture some standard items of Ord- 
nance equipment such as link-loading ma- 
chines for .30-caliber and .50-caliber am- 
munition, arming wires and bomb fin re- 
taining rings, leather pistol holsters and 
rifle slings, machine gun water chests, and 
cleaning rods and brushes for machine guns 
and ramrods for larger weapons. 

The USAFIA Ordnance Section de- 
signed many items and adapted others, such 
as the gun mounts devised for ship arming 
and airfield defense, to fit U.S. Army re- 
quirements. Jib cranes were developed to 
facilitate the handling of bombs from rail- 
way cars to trucks and at the depots; a 
scout car for line of communications units 
was made by fitting a light armored body 
on the chassis of small Canadian trucks 
evacuated from the Netherlands Indies. A 
rapid automatic link loader for machine 
guns was copied from a U.S. Navy model, 
and because reports from air units showed 
that regular ammunition delinking, inspect- 
ing, cleaning, and relinking had to be done 
to insure proper functioning of machine 
gun feeding, a delinker similar to one de- 
signed by a U.S. Air Forces Ordnance of- 
ficer was manufactured in Australia. 

Many of the Ordnance items that the 
Americans improvised or adapted in the 
theater were accepted for their own use by 
the Australians, who seemed to Holman's 
staff to have great respect for American 
equipment. Suggestions for inventions 



poured into the USAFIA Ordnance office 
from Australian soldiers and civilians; one 
invention that amused Kirsten was a "dis- 
appearing bayonet," which was not visible 
to the unsuspecting Japanese soldier until it 
was suddenly sprung on him. With very 
few exceptions, the inventors' ideas were 
forwarded to Australian military authorities 
in accordance with an agreement worked 
out for the handling of such suggestions. 31 

USAAS Ordnance 

The directive establishing the Southwest 
Pacific Area under the command of Gen- 
eral MacArthur on 18 April 1942 set up 
separate organizations for Allied Land 
Forces and Allied Air Forces, the former 
commanded by Australia's General 
Blarney, the latter by General Brett. On 
27 April the United States Army Air Serv- 
ices (USAAS) was created and placed 
under the command of Maj. Gen. Rush B. 
Lincoln. For some time, there was confu- 
sion as to its exact responsibility ; it was the 
end of May before USAAS was officially 
defined as an administrative, supply, main- 
tenance, and engineering command operat- 
ing under the commander of the Allied Air 
Forces. 32 {Chart 1) 

The Ordnance Section of USAAS was 
staffed with four officers and seven en- 
listed men from the USAFIA Ordnance 
office and was headed by Maj. Robert S. 
Blodgett, chosen for the job by Colonel 



31 ( 1 ) Interv with Holman and Kirsten, 12 
Apr 56. (2) For inventive improvisations and sug- 
gestions see AFWESPAC Ord Sec 070 Inventions, 
KCRC. (3) The only comment by the official 
Australian Army historian on American equipment 
at the time was that it was "adequate — partly of 
last-war types and partly of later models." Mc- 
Carthy, South-West Pacific Area — First Year, p. 33. 

r ' 2 ( 1 )Craven and Cate, AAF I. pp. 421-22. 



56 ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 

Chart 1 — The U.S. Army Forces in Australia Ordnance Office, May 1942 



Base Section 
Ordnance Officers 



Chief Ordnance Officer 
Executive 



Ordnance Section 
U.S. Army Air Services 



Administration 
Division 



Mail 
and Record 



Military 
Personnel 



Training 



Fiscal 



Procurement 



Civilian 
Personnel 



Facilities 



1 


Ammunition 
Division 












Requisition 












Allocation 












Inspection and 
Surveillance 



General Supply 
Division 












Requisition 












Storage 












Issues 



Inspection and 
Maintenance Division 



Liaison 
Technical Control 



Inspection 
Section 



Armament 
Section 



Technical 
Section 












Design 












Library 












Display 



Source: USAFIA Ordnance Office, Organization Chart, Inclosure 2 to Report of Ordnance Activities, USAFIA, February-May 1942, 
USAFIA Organization Chart, Inclosure 14c to Barnes Report. 



Holman, who had served with Blodgett in 
the United States and had a high opinion 
of his ability. Two of the officers had 
come south from the Philippines: Maj. 
Harry C. Porter had flown from Correg- 
idor and Maj. Victor C. Huffsmith had 
had a perilous sea voyage from Manila to 
Mindanao, sailing immediately after Pearl 
Harbor in a small ship with detachments 
of two Ordnance aviation companies, the 
701st and 440th. Ordered to Australia on 



29 April, he was on the last flight out of 
Mindanao before the Japanese took over. 33 
Though the USAAS Ordnance Section 
was divorced from the USAFIA Ordnance 
Section, the two offices necessarily worked 



33 ( 1 ) Interv with Holman and Kirsten, 12 Apr 
56. (2) Ltr, Maj Huffsmith to Brig Gen McFar- 
land, 20 Nov 42, no sub, Folder, Troop Units 
Reports, Miscellaneous Reports, OHF. For efforts 
by Huffsmith and the Ordnance men to aid the 
Visayan-Mindanao Task Force, see below, p. 440. 



THE BASE IN AUSTRALIA 



57 



closely together, since in the early days of 
SWPA air operations were the primary 
effort. USAAS obtained its ammunition 
and Ordnance major items from USAFIA. 
Later, as the air operations grew and spread 
over very large areas, the official connection 
weakened. After Maj. Gen. George C. 
Kenney on 4 August 1942 took over from 
General Brett the command of the Allied 
Air Forces, and the Fifth Air Force was 
established, USAAS became a part of the 
Fifth Air Force (in October redesignated 
Air Service Command, Fifth Air Force). 
The March 1942 organization by which 
three major commands were established 
under the War Department — ground, air, 
and service — had its effect; and there were 
presages of the reorganization that was soon 
to shift control of Ordnance aviation troops 
to Air Forces commanders. But between 
Blodgett's and Holman's offices a good deal 
of informal and very effective liaison con- 
tinued, a circumstance that Holman at- 
tributed to Blodgett's excellent relationship 
with Kenney and his loyalty to Ordnance. 34 

Midsummer IQ42: New Responsibilities 

Six months after the Pensacola convoy 
landed with one Ordnance company, Ord- 
nance strength in Australia stood at 145 
officers and 3,500 enlisted men. There 
were four ammunition companies (out of 
twelve requested) ; three medium mainte- 



34 (1) Interv with Kirsten and Holman, 12 Apr 
56. (2) Wesley F. Craven and James L. Cate, 
eds., "The Army Air Forces in World War II," 
vol. IV, The Pacific: Guadalcanal to Saipan, 
August 1942 to July 1944 (Chicago: University 
of Chicago Press. 1950), 103 (hereafter cited as 
AAF IV). (3) Maj William P. Fisher, Talk Given 
. . . Before G-4 Officers WDGS, 20 Mar 42, 
AAF, 385-E Methods-Manners-Conducting War- 
fare. (4) Air Ordnance Office, AAF, Ordnance in 
the Air Forces, MS, May 1946, OHF. 



nance (out of five requested); one depot 
(out of five requested) ; one composite; and 
fifteen aviation companies — six air base, 
six bombardment, and three pursuit. With 
these men, most of whom had been in Aus- 
tralia less than three months, Colonel Hol- 
man had staffed five ammunition depots 
and five maintenance and supply depots, 
was providing Ordnance service to two 
divisions and fifteen air groups, and was 
handling incoming supplies and transship- 
ments at seven ports. 35 

There were still grave shortages in sup- 
plies, notably in spare parts, tools, bomb- 
handling equipment, and technical man- 
uals. Much still remained to be done in 
segregating stores and training troops; for 
example, one young ammunition officer 
complained that all his time was spent in 
finding out where bombs, fuzes, and arm- 
ing wires were stored, and teaching his 
men "what to do, how to fuze and put 
arming wires on, how to put bombs into 
bomb bays . . . ." But depots and shops 
were beginning to operate with some degree 
of efficiency, especially in the Melbourne, 
Adelaide, and Sydney areas. At the depot 
in Adelaide, for example, items were cor- 
rectly stored in bins and Standard Nomen- 
clature List groups were segregated. Kane 
Ammunition Depot near Melbourne was 
becoming "an Ordnance show place." 36 

Transportation and communications be- 
tween the southern cities and the northern 



*Ltr, Holman, COrdO USASOS to CofOrd. 
7 Sep 42, sub: Report of Ordnance Activities, 
USASOS SWPA, August 1942, in USASOS, Rpt 
of Ord Activities, Jul 42-Jan 43. 

39 ( 1 ) Ltrs, San Francisco POE to Chief Trans- 
portation Service WD, 15 Jun 42, 3 Jul 42, sub: 
Level of Supplies at Sumac and Poppy, AG400 (1- 
17-42) (2) sec 2. (2) Rpt, Ord Officer, Horn 
Island, 6 Jul 42. (3) Memo, Hirsch for COrdO 
USAFIA, 30 Jul 42. Last two in AFWESPAC 
Ord Sec 333 Inspections, KCRC. 



58 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



outposts were slowly improving. Bottle- 
necks were being eliminated from the road 
north to Darwin and the use of Australian 
teletype instead of straight mail from Mel- 
bourne to Darwin and Townsville short- 
ened communications time considerably. 
The Ordnance office at Townsville, which 
according to Major Hirsch had been lead- 
ing a "hand to mouth existence . . . mainly 
because actual information of coming 
events is either lacking entirely or delayed 
beyond comprehension," was now "in the 
throes of growing up." 37 

For the very real accomplishments that 
spring and summer of 1942 in Australia in 
the face of meager resources, Colonel Hol- 
man was given a large share of the credit 
by the young officers of his USAFIA Ord- 
nance staff. They admired not only his 
brains and imagination but his enthusiasm 
and his positive approach to problems. At 
USAFIA staff meetings, Kirsten remem- 
bered later, "the Quartermaster would be 
gloomy — couldn't cook with Australian 
chocolate, etc.; the Engineer officer would 
be gloomy — couldn't drive nails in Austra- 
lian hardwood, etc.; but Holman (though 
Ordnance was as bad off as any) would say 
we can get this done in such and such a 
time. Naturally this made such a good 
impression he could get almost anything he 
wanted." Also, Holman had the quality 
of arousing loyalty. He selected capable 
young officers and then backed them up. 38 

During the first half year in Australia, 
the efforts of the USAFIA Ordnance of- 
fice had been devoted mainly to support of 
air and antiaircraft operations, supplying 
armament and ammunition to the fighter 



and bomber groups operating from Austra- 
lian bases in defense of northern Australia 
and New Guinea and to the antiaircraft 
units at the ports and airfields and aboard 
ships. In July, as the chill damp of an 
Australian winter settled in Melbourne, the 
USAFIA Ordnance office began prepara- 
tions to support the New Guinea prong of 
the first U.S. offensive in the Pacific, as 
directed bv the Joint Chiefs of Staff on 2 

July- 

The offensive, an "island-hopping" oper- 
ation of the kind soon to become familiar, 
would be in three phases. The first, as- 
signed to Vice Adm. Robert L. Ghormley's 
South Pacific Area, was the capture of 
Guadalcanal and other islands in the Solo- 
mons; the second, assigned to General Mac- 
Arthur, was the capture of the remainder 
of the Solomons and the northeastern coast 
of the narrow Papuan peninsula in New 
Guinea, where the Japanese held Lae and 
Salamaua; and the third, also assigned to 
MacArthur, was the capture of the Jap- 
anese stronghold of Rabaul and adjacent 
areas in the Bismarck Archipelago. The 
object was to halt the Japanese advance 
toward the tenuous line of communications 
between the United States and Australia 
and New Zealand. The offensive was re- 
stricted to the few ships, troops, weapons, 
and supplies that could be spared from the 
preparations for an invasion of Europe. 39 

In Australia, the U.S. armed forces be- 
gan preparing at once to capture the north- 



37 (i)Ltr, Hirsch to COrdO USAFIA, 2 May 
42, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections, KCRC. 
(2) Werner Rpt. 

" Interv with Kirsten. 12 Apr 56. 



30 ( 1 ) Samuel Milner, Victory in Papua, UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washing- 
ton, 1957), pp. 46-48. (2) John Miller, jr., Gua- 
dalcanal: The First Offensive, UNITED STATES 
ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1949), 
pp. 1, 16-17. (3) Matloff and Snell, Strategic Plan- 
ning for Coalition Warfare: 1941-42, pp. 258-65. 
(4) Morton, Strategy and Command: The First 
Two Years, pp. 301-04. 



THE BASE IN AUSTRALIA 



59 




Ordnance Warehouse, Townsville 



eastern coast of Papua. The 32c! and 41st 
Infantry Divisions, which along with the 
7th Australian Infantry Division were to fur- 
nish the ground combat troops, were moved 
to eastern Australia and started to train 
for jungle warfare. Until the men were 
ready, the Army Air Forces was to step up 
its bombing operations. Engineer troops 
had been sent to develop new airfields at 
Port Moresby and at the small but impor- 
tant RAAF base at Milne Bay on the south- 
eastern coast of Papua. These fields would 
not be enough. For the recapture of Lae 
and Salamaua, a major airfield on the 
northeastern coast was necessary. A recon- 
naissance revealed a good site at Dobodura, 
about fifteen miles south of Buna, a 
native village and government station on 



the northeastern coast of Papua almost 
opposite Port Moresby, and on 15 July 
GHQ SWPA directed the launching of 
operations to occupy the Buna area be- 
tween 10 and 12 August. 

Within a week of this order, a Japanese 
convoy was discovered moving on Buna. 
Aided by bad weather that shielded it from 
Allied air attacks, the enemy force reached 
the area on the night of 2 1 July and began 
landing. Allied bombing and strafing the 
next morning had little effect; the Japanese 
were soon securely established at Buna. 
General MacArthur's G-2, Brig. Gen. 
Charles A. Willoughby, believed that they 
merely wanted the same favorable airfield 
sites that had attracted the Allies. A Japa- 
nese advance overland on Port Moresby, 



60 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



only 150 miles to the southwest, was not 
ruled out, but it seemed highly improbable, 
because between the northern and south- 
ern coasts of Papua rose the 13,000-foot 
Owen Stanley Range. Over these moun- 
tains there were no roads, only narrow, 
primitive footpaths that became precari- 
ous tracks as they wandered up rock faces 
and bare ridges, then down rivers of mud 
as they descended into the heavy jungle 
below. Whatever the intentions of the 
Japanese, the obvious course for General 
MacArthur was to reinforce Port Moresby 
and Milne Bay. He did so by ordering the 
7th Australian Infantry Division to move 
to these areas immediately. He also sent 
forward engineers and antiaircraft units. 40 

Preparations To Support the Move 
Northward 

In early July when the New Guinea of- 
fensive was directed, Ordnance installations 
were meager in northeastern Australia, the 
logical support area for the coming cam- 
paign. At Brisbane, designated on 7 
August the main base of supply, the 37th 
Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company 
was operating in the open air from shop 
trucks at the edge of Doomben Race Track, 
and a detachment of the 84th Ordnance 
Depot Company was setting up a small 
general supply depot in a converted or- 
phanage building in Clayfield. Until then, 
general supplies had been stored at Darra, 
an ammunition dump operated by the 55th 
Ordnance Ammunition Company with the 
assistance of about 50 civilian mounted 
guards and 50 civilian laborers. 41 



By the end of July, when the 32d Divi- 
sion had moved to Camp Cable, 30 miles 
south of Brisbane, and the 41st had arrived 
at Rockhampton, 400 miles to the north, 
the USAFIA Ordnance office had secured 
a tract at Coopers Plains south of Brisbane. 
Here it began to build a large Ordnance 
service center to house a maintenance shop 
of 10,000 square feet, to be operated by the 
37th Ordnance Medium Maintenance 
Company, and a general supply depot of 
20,000 square feet, to be operated by the 
84th Ordnance Depot Company. The base 
commander, Col. William H. Donaldson, 
and his Ordnance officer, Lt. Col. William 
C. Cauthen, managed to get both shop and 
depot completed in September, and during 
the fall the space was more than tripled. 
At Rockhampton a maintenance shop and 
a small general supply depot were being 
established to service the 41st Division. 
New ammunition depots were established 
at Wallaroo, west of Rockhampton, and 
Columboola, west of Brisbane; Darra was 
enlarged. A transshipping warehouse was 
built at Pinkenba from which weapons and 
ammunition could be forwarded to Towns- 
ville and points north. 42 

At Townsville the Ordnance job became 
heavier because of the transshipping opera- 
tion, the concentration of antiaircraft units 
in northern Australia and New Guinea, and 
the need to support stepped-up bombing 
operations. The 25th Ordnance Medium 
Maintenance Company arrived there on 12 
July to distribute and maintain sixty new 



40 Milner, Victory in Papua, pp. 56-58, 70-73. 

41 ( 1 ) Memo, Capt Spencer B. Booz for Col 
Holman, 1 Jul 42, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 In- 
spections, KCRC. (2) Werner Rpt. 



42 ( 1 ) Memos, Hirsch for COrdO, 30 Jul 42, 
3 Aug 42, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections, 
KCRC. (2) Ltr, Cauthen to COrdO USASOS, 
2 Nov 42, sub: Report of Operations, October, 
1942, with Incl, Ordnance Department Warehouse 
Space— Covered, Brisbane Area, AFWESPAC Ord 
Sec 370.2 Monthly Rpt of Opns B.S. 3, KCRC. 



THE BASE IN AUSTRALIA 



61 



40-mm. Bofors antiaircraft guns. The men 
found that many of the guns, either defective 
to begin with or damaged in shipping, had to 
be rebuilt. In addition to this task the 
company operated an Ordnance shop and 
depot — in a building formerly used to man- 
ufacture windmills — serviced ships' guns at 
the port, and sent detachments to isolated 
units of Coast Artillery. Reinforced by a 
small detachment of the 59th Ordnance 
Ammunition Company, the 55th Ordnance 
Ammunition Company, which had already 
furnished a detachment of thirty men for 
Port Moresby, handled ammunition at the 
wharf and operated the Kangaroo Trans- 
shipment Depot, on the north coast road 
to Cairns. Transshipment by rail or boat 
to Cairns, a small port north of Towns- 
ville, became important as the supply sys- 
tem to the combat zone evolved. Cairns 
became a center for small ships into which 
ammunition was reloaded for the run to 
New Guinea and points on the Cape York 
Peninsula. This system was developed to 
relieve the congestion at Townsville; also 
smaller and more frequent shipments of am- 
munition were thought to provide better 
service with fewer losses. An ammunition 
storage area was developed at Torrens 
Creek (180 miles west of Townsville) to 
support both New Guinea and Darwin 
should the Townsville-Cairns area be cut 
off, but it served for only a few air mis- 
sions and shipments and never became 
fully operational. 43 

In the general preparations for the Papua 
Campaign, General MacArthur's head- 



quarters moved from Melbourne to Bris- 
bane. On 20 July USAFIA was discon- 
tinued and United States Army Services of 
Supply, Southwest Pacific Area (USASOS 
SWPA), was created and placed under the 
command of Brig. Gen. Richard J. Marshall, 
to whom were transferred all USAFIA per- 
sonnel and organizations. 44 Maj. Gen. 
Robert L. Eichelberger arrived in August 
with Headquarters, I Corps, to which were 
assigned the 32d and 41st Divisions. 

These changes affected Ordnance serv- 
ice to some extent, but no theater reorgani- 
zation could compare in effect on Ordnance 
with a War Department reorganization that 
took place that summer. Early in August 
1942 a cable from Washington to the Com- 
mander in Chief, SWPA, announced that 
responsibility for the supply and mainte- 
nance of all motor vehicles was to be trans- 
ferred from the Quartermaster Corps to 
the Ordnance Department. USASOS re- 
ceived the news on 15 August, only two 
weeks before the changeover was to become 
effective, 1 September 1942. 45 

Responsibility for Motor Vehicles 

The USASOS Ordnance office inhe- 
rited from Quartermaster about 22,000 ve- 
hicles, of which some 15,000 were trucks, 
ranging in size from the 14 -ton jeep to the 
4-ton 6x6; 3,000 were trailers; and 2,500 
were sedans. The rest were ambulances, 



43 (1) McCree Rpt. (2) Rpts, Maj William A. 
Weaver to COrdO USASOS [Reports of Opera- 
tions for Months of Jul 42 and Aug 42], AFWES- 
PAC Ord Sec 370.2 Monthly Rpt of Opns B.S. 
2, KCRC. (3) Memo, Kirsten for Holman, 10 
Sep 42, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections, 
KCRC. (4) Holman Comments 1. 



44 (1) GO 17, GHQ SWPA, 20 Jul 42. (2) 
GO 1, Hq USASOS SWPA, 20 Jul 42. 

45 (1) WD Cir 245, 25 Jul 42. (2) For Pacific 
area reaction, see file AFWESPAC Ord Sec 020 
Correspondence Relating to Transfer of Motor 
Vehicle Activities from QM to Ord, KCRC. (3) 
For background on the transfer in the United 
States, see Thomson and Mayo, The Ordnance 
Department: Procurement and Supply, pp. 282-84. 
(4) Holman Comments 1. 



62 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



motorcycles, and miscellaneous types. More 
than 6,000 of the total, including most of 
the sedans, had been purchased in Austra- 
lia or obtained from Dutch distress cargoes. 
Along with the vehicles, Ordnance inhe- 
rited problems. 46 

First was the familiar problem of person- 
nel. By agreement between Colonel Hol- 
man and Col. Douglas C. Cordiner, the 
USASOS chief quartermaster, the Quar- 
termaster motor transport officers were told 
that they must remain with Ordnance for a 
period of six months or a year (to be re- 
leased to Quartermaster at the end of the 
period if they wished) . But there were only 
ten of them at Headquarters, USASOS, 
two of whom were in ill health, and only 
seven at the various base section headquar- 
ters. The Quartermaster units concerned 
with motor transport were assigned to Ord- 
nance as of i August, but they were few. 
Only four were in Australia : Company A, 
86th Quartermaster Battalion (Light Main- 
tenance), and the 179th Quartermaster 
Company (Heavy Maintenance), stationed 
at Mount Isa; Company C, 86th Quarter- 
master Battalion (Light Maintenance), sta- 
tioned at Townsville; and Company A, 72d 
Quartermaster Battalion (Light Mainte- 
nance), at Brisbane. In the cities a large 
proportion of the repair work was being 
done under contract by commercial auto- 
mobile companies, which also stored and 
distributed spare parts. 47 



19 Rpt, Lt Col Harry A. Cavanaugh, Motor Sup- 
ply Parts and Maintenance Division, Procurement 
and Distribution of Motor Vehicles Branch, 21 
Aug 42 (hereafter cited as Cavanaugh Rpt), 
AFWESPAC Ord Sec 020 Corres Re Trsfr of 
Motor Vehicle Activities, KCRC. Colonel Cava- 
naugh had been General Motors representative 
in Australia. Barnes Rpt, p. 65. 

" ( 1 ) Holman Comments 1. (2) Cavanaugh 
Rpt. 



The greatest need for repairs was often 
far from cities and could only be met by 
maintenance troops. Additional companies 
had been requested by the USASOS quar- 
termaster, but he had been told that they 
would not be available before 1943; they 
were not forthcoming even after Colonel 
Holman on 10 September urged USASOS 
to inform Washington that the vehicle 
maintenance situation was fast approach- 
ing the critical stage. Throughout the fall 
the heavy trucking operation in the Mount 
Isa-Darwin area, carried on over rough 
roads in clouds of dust, continued to tie up 
a large portion of Holman's motor mainte- 
nance men. The arrival in Townsville of 
shiploads of unassembled vehicles made 
necessary the assignment of mechanics to 
an assembly plant there, since no commer- 
cial assembly plants existed north of Bris- 
bane. 48 

When Ordnance took over motor vehi- 
cles, shortages existed in certain types of 
trucks, especially the versatile jeeps, which 
could go anywhere and were particularly 
valuable as staff cars. There were only 
about 2,000 in the theater, and they were 
beginning to be considered by everyone 
"an absolute necessity" — so much so that 



48 (1) Cavanaugh Rpt. (2) Memo, COrdO for 
G-4 et al., 10 Sep 42, no sub; Memo, J. L. H. to 
G-3, 30 Sep 42, sub: Transfer of Organizations; 
Ltr, COrdO to Motor Maintenance Officer, Rail 
Head, Base Section 1, 6 Oct 42, sub: Transfer of 
One Platoon of Company "C," 86th Ord Bn (Q) 
to Base Section 1, for Temporary Duty; Ltr, Maj 
Gen Marshall to CO Base Section 2, 14 Nov 42, 
sub: Assembly of Motor Vehicles; all in AFWES- 
PAC Ord Sec 200.3 Assignment of Personnel. 
KCRC. (3) Memo, J. L. H. for G-3, 23 Jun 43, 
sub: Motor Vehicle Assembly Companies, AFWES- 
PAC Ord Sec 320.2 Strength, KCRC. 

The automotive maintenance units transferred 
to Ordnance from Quartermaster carried the desig- 
nation "(Q)." Later, "automotive" became part 
of the unit name and the "(Q)" was dropped. 



THE BASE IN AUSTRALIA 



63 



they were freely stolen by one organization 
from another. One day a jeep assigned 
to Capt. John F. McCarthy, Ordnance of- 
ficer of Base Section 2, disappeared from 
the street in Townsville where he had 
parked it and was next seen tied down on 
an Australian flatcar scheduled to head 
west with an Australian unit. Colonel 
Holman commented, "This is the payoff." 
During the build-up at Port Moresby it 
was not safe to leave a jeep parked with the 
keys in it. The shortage was so acute that 
officers often had to thumb rides or walk 
for miles. 49 

For most of the vehicles, particularly 
jeeps, there were not enough spare parts. 
The shipping shortage had made it impos- 
sible to build up a reserve stock (the ideal 
was a 90-day reserve supply) and some 
items were entirely lacking. When Maj. 
Gen. LeRoy Lutes, deputy commander of 
Services of Supply, visited Australia in Oc- 
tober he noted that the spare parts situa- 
tion was critical. Since San Francisco re- 
cords showed that shipments had been 
made, and since he believed "no doubt 
many were bogged down on unloaded 
ships," the fault lay in maldistribution. 
Because of the poor railroad facilities it had 
been hard to distribute parts to outlying 
units from the large bulk storage U.S. 
Army General Motors Warehouse on Sturt 
Street, Melbourne. The answer was to 
carry a complete stock at the base section 
depots, but this would not be possible until 
large stocks arrived from the United States, 
a most unpredictable event because the 
motor vehicle changeover had caused an 



upheaval in the Ordnance distribution 
system. 50 

In assuming his new responsibilities, Hol- 
man saw to it that the Quartermaster of- 
ficers and units that came over were in- 
structed in Ordnance procedures and that 
his own Ordnance men learned motor 
transport maintenance. A significant 
change in the Ordnance system of mainte- 
nance came about that fall on instructions 
from Washington. Since the logo's, Ord- 
nance had employed three levels of main- 
tenance: first echelon, performed by the 
line organization; second echelon, per- 
formed by Ordnance maintenance compa- 
nies in the field; and third echelon, per- 
formed in the rear. Influenced by the 
Quartermaster system, which used four 
echelons, Ordnance planners instituted a 
five echelon system. First and second 
echelon work, now lumped together and 
called organization maintenance, was done 
by the using organization. Third echelon, 
sometimes called medium maintenance, 
was now done in the field in mobile shops. 
It involved replacement of assemblies, such 
as engines and transmissions, as well as 
general assistance and supply of parts to 
the using troops. Fourth echelon, common- 
ly referred to as heavy maintenance, was 
done in the field in fixed or semifixed shops. 
Fifth echelon, the complete reconditioning 
or rebuilding of materiel and sometimes the 
manufacturing of parts and assemblies, 
was done in base shops. 51 



49 (1) Hirsch Rpt. (2) Werner Rpt. (3) Memo. 
Capt W. A. Brown for COrdO, 11 Oct 42, sub: 
Report of Survey of Motor Vehicles, Parts Supply 
and Maintenance at Maple, Base Sections 2 and 
3, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections, KCRC. 



50 (1) Lt. Gen. LeRoy Lutes, "Supply: World 
War II," Antiaircraft Journal, LXXXXV (Sep- 
tember-October, 1952), p. 4. (2) Cavanaugh 
Rpt. (3) Barnes Rpt, p. 65. (4) Henning Rpt. 
(5) For the upheaval in the United States, see 
Thomson and Mayo, Procurement and Supply, 
PP- 399-402. 

01 (1) Holman Comments 1. (2) Thomson and 
Mayo, Procurement and Supply, pp. 448-49. 



64 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



By October 1942 the four Quartermaster 
motor maintenance companies had been 
redesignated, three of them becoming Ord- 
nance medium maintenance (Q) and the 
fourth, heavy maintenance (Q). The 
Quartermaster bulk parts storage depot in 
Melbourne became Sturt Ordnance Depot, 
and to it were transferred Ordnance parts 
for scout cars, half-tracks, and other Ord- 
nance vehicles, in order that all vehicle 
requisitions could be filled in one place. 
In the Brisbane and Sydney areas, where 
parts had been stored and maintenance 
mainly done in commercial shops, Colonel 
Holman was planning to mesh motor trans- 
port installations with Ordnance supply 
and maintenance activities when facilities 
and personnel permitted. At Brisbane, 
Colonel Cauthen worked out better meth- 
ods for assembling crated vehicles, using an 



outdoor assembly line supervised by Ord- 
nance but operated by combat troop 
labor provided by the receiving organiza- 
tion. At Townsville motor maintenance, 
weapons maintenance and depot units, 
civilian-operated motor parts depots, and 
tire retreading plants were rapidly con- 
solidated into an Ordnance service center, 
its most important mission the supply and 
maintenance of troops en route to New 
Guinea. 52 



S2 ( 1 ) Holman Comments 1. (2) Rpt, Hirsch to 
COrdO, 30 Sep 42, sub: Report of Ordnance 
Activities, Base Section 4, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 
370.2 Monthly Rpt of Opns B.S. 4, KCRC. (3) 
Ltr, Kirsten to COrdO, 29 Aug 42, sub: Inspection 
of Quartermaster Motor Transport Installations, 
AFWESPAC Ord Sec 020, Corres Re Trsfr of 
Motor Vehicle Activities, KCRC. (4) Ltr, Weaver 
to COrdO, 10 Oct 42, sub: Report of Operations 
for Month of September 1942, AFWESPAC Ord 
Sec 370.2 Monthly Rpt of Opns B.S. 2, KCRC. 



CHAPTER V 



Supporting the Papua Campaign 



The coast of New Guinea comes into 
view after a three-hour flight north over 
the Coral Sea from Townsville, Australia 
— the huge island stretching out below the 
air traveler "like a monstrous creature 
slumbering in the tepid equatorial sea." * 
On the map New Guinea looks like a bird- 
shaped monster that is about to perch on a 
slender peninsula jutting up from the north- 
ern coast of Australia, the head looking 
toward the Philippines, the bony tail ex- 
tending to a point south of the Solomon 
Islands. The tail, bearing the towering 
Owen Stanley Range, is the easternmost 
part of Australia's Territory of Papua. At 
the tip is a deep forked indentation, Milne 
Bay. About halfway down the under side 
of the tail is Port Moresby, the tiny copra 
port that Australians in 1942 called "the 
Tobruk of the Pacific." 

Preparations were made in the summer 
of 1942 for dislodging the Japanese from 
Buna, on the northeast coast of Papua, and 
General MacArthur on 11 August 1942 
designated Port Moresby — code name 
Maple — the U.S. Advanced Base. At the 
time, the defense force consisted mainly of 
Australians — a Royal Australian Air Force 
squadron and about 3,000 infantrymen sent 
up from Australia early in 1942 as a con- 
sequence of the Japanese occupation of 
Rabaul, Lae, and Salamaua. The Ameri- 



cans on the scene in August 1942 were air, 
antiaircraft, or service units. In late April 
1942 two American fighter groups had 
been dispatched to relieve the weary RAAF 
units, and they were followed by an anti- 
aircraft battalion, several Engineer units to 
improve the two existing airstrips and build 
new ones, and some Ordnance troops, in- 
cluding, by July, an Ordnance aviation 
(air base) company, the 703d, an 11 -man 
detachment of the 25th Ordnance Medium 
Maintenance Company to service the anti- 
aircraft guns, and detachments of two am- 
munition companies, the 59th and 55th. 2 
Along with the Australians, the Americans 
came under New Guinea Force (NGF), 
created in mid-April 1942 by General Sir 
Thomas Blarney, the Australian appointed 
by General MacArthur to command Allied 
Land Forces. At first New Guinea Force 



Geoffrey Reading, Papuan Story (Sydney and 
London: 1946), p. 7. 



2 (i) Milner, Victory in Papua, pp. 27, 75. Un- 
less otherwise indicated Milner's book has been 
used throughout in the preparation of this chapter. 
Other sources consulted, although not always cited 
in detail include: Reports of Ordnance Activities 
USASOS SWPA, November 1942-February 1943, 
OHF; Report of the Commanding General Buna 
Forces on the Buna Campaign, December 1, i94 2 ~ 
January 25, 1943, OCMH. (2) Ltr, Lt Col Fred- 
eric H. Smith, Jr., to Director of Pursuit, Allied 
Air Forces, AAF, 385-E, Methods — Manners — Con- 
ducting Warfare. (3) Memo, Kirsten for Holman, 
3 Jun 42. (4) Memo, Capt S.B. Booz for Holman, 
1 Jul 42, (5) Ltr, Weaver to Holman, 1 Jul 42, 
sub: Report on Ordnance Situation at Maple. 
Last three in AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspec- 
tions, KCRC. 



66 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



was commanded by Maj. Gen. Basil Morris, 
head of the Australia-New Guinea Ad- 
ministrative Unit (ANGAU), the service 
that supplanted civil government in Papua 
when white residents were evacuated or 
called into military service. In mid-August 
New Guinea Force came under another 
Australian, Maj. Gen. Sydney F. Rowell, 
who was in command until 24 September, 
when General Blarney took over. Gen- 
eral Blarney created Advance New Guinea 
Force and placed it under the command of 
Australian Lt. Gen. Edmund F. Herring/ 5 

Rowell's New Guinea Force had been 
considerably augmented the third week in 
August by the arrival of elements of the 
7th Australian Infantry Division, a unit 
called back to Australia from the Middle 
East and ordered by MacArthur to New 
Guinea after the Japanese landings near 
Buna in late July. Of the two brigades 
ordered to Port Moresby, one arrived 19 
August and immediately began moving up 
the trail over the Owen Stanleys to rein- 
force the troops attempting to deny the trail 
to the Japanese advancing from Buna. 
Another brigade was landed on 2 1 August 
at Milne Bay where a force was being built 
up, including American engineer and anti- 
aircraft troops, to improve and protect air- 
fields. 

The two Australian brigades of veterans 
from the Middle East arrived just in time. 
The Japanese, strongly reinforced at Buna 
from Rabaul, launched an offensive across 
the mountains toward Port Moresby on 26 
August and at the same time landed a 
sea-borne force, dispatched from Rabaul, 
at Milne Bay. 



The Ordnance Officer Arrives 
at Port Moresby 

A few days after this alarming develop- 
ment, the Ordnance officer of the new 
U.S. Advanced Base arrived at Port 
Moresby by air. He was Capt. Byrne C. 
Manson, selected by Colonel Holman for 
this important job because of his fine rec- 
ord as Ordnance officer of Base Section 4 
at Melbourne. He was destined to pioneer 
in New Guinea as he had pioneered in 
Australia in the early days. On a morn- 
ing in late August Manson arrived at Port 
Moresby, coming down at one of the air- 
strips on a dusty plain several miles inland. 
He rode in a jeep down arid brown hills 
to the waterfront, where corrugated iron 
roofs of stores and shipping offices were 
blazing in the sun, and everywhere Man- 
son saw the effects of the Japanese air 
raids that had been battering the small 
port since February: broken windows in 
the empty bungalows in the hills and the 
stores along the harbor, bomb craters and 
slit trenches in the dirt roads that passed 
for streets. 4 

The most immediate Ordnance problem 
at Port Moresby was to increase the supply 
of ammunition. Bombers and fighters 
trying to stop the Japanese advance and 
cut off Japanese supplies at Buna depended 
on Ordnance dumps. Demands were 
heavy: in two days 35 tons of bombs and 
33,000 rounds of ammunition were used 
up over Buna. Ammunition for American 
ground troops — chiefly antiaircraft units — 
was not as critical, but reserves had to be 
built up. Stocks of weapons and weapons 



3 McCarthy, South-West Pacific Area— First 
Year: Kokoda to Wau. pp. 42-43, 105, 236-39. 



4 (1) Manson File. (2) John Lardner, Southwest 
Passage (New York, 1943), pp. 170, 175-77. 



SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN 



67 




Wr^iiSfflife 



Port Moresby, 1942 



parts Manson found "so low and unbal- 
anced as to be of no consequence." On 
his way north he had placed requisitions 
at Brisbane for a 90-day supply of mainte- 
nance spare parts and major item replace- 
ments and a 30-day supply of cleaning and 
preserving materials, all to be shipped im- 
mediately. Motor maintenance parts were 
sufficient for the moment, but more would 
have to be ordered from Brisbane be- 
cause there were more vehicles at the base 
than had been estimated and larger re- 
serves were desirable. 5 

The shortage of Ordnance personnel 



s Ltr, Manson to COrdO USASOS SWPA, 13 
Sep 42, sub: Ordnance Field Service Report of 
Operations — Initial Report (hereafter cited as 
Manson Rpt), AFWESPAC Ord Sec 370.2, Month- 
ly Rpt of Opns Adv Base N.G., KCRC. 



was reminiscent of the early days in Aus- 
tralia, when of necessity the men available 
did the work that had to be done, regard- 
less of their specialties. Because Manson 
had no depot troops, he planned to use his 
antiaircraft maintenance detachment — 
nearing the end of its assigned task — as 
depot troops to receive and sort the ex- 
pected shipments of supplies. A 72-man 
motor maintenance platoon, which came 
in by ship on 8 September but was unable 
to set up a shop because its tools and equip- 
ment were still en route, was put to work 
handling bombs and burning off areas 
around ammunition dumps. Because 
Papua was then in the midst of the dry 
season, the danger of fire was ever present. 
At the most important dump, the Central 



68 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Dump at Four-Mile Airdrome serving 
three airfields, some fire-fighting equipment 
was available, but it was primitive — barrels 
containing water, and burlap bags to use 
in smothering flames. 6 

On 15 September a grass fire spread to 
the Central Dump. The flames moved 
rapidly, sending up dense black clouds and 
detonating bombs and ammunition with 
thundering roars. Braving the intense heat 
and great danger, more than a score of 
Ordnance men attempted to extinguish the 
flames with wet burlap bags; failing, they 
tried to haul bombs and ammunition cases 
to safety, risking their lives. Despite their 
efforts, large quantities of bombs, fuzes, 
fins, and arming wires, as well as 155-mm., 
37-mm., 20-mm., .50-caliber, and .45- 
caliber ammunition were lost. 7 This loss 
of the ground ammunition was particularly 
unfortunate because it occured on the very 
day the first U.S. combat troops arrived in 
New Guinea. 

The Crisis in Mid-September 

At the end of the first week in September 
the Japanese amphibious operation had 
been repulsed at Milne Bay but the Japa- 
nese overland forces had advanced far 
along the Kokoda Trail and were coming 
uncomfortably close to Port Moresby. The 



6 ( 1 ) Memo, Kirsten for Holman, 7 Sep 42, 
sub: Situation at Maple, 31 Aug to 6 Sep, Kirsten 
Personal File, OHF. (2) Manson Rpt. (3) Unit 
History of the 3425th Ordnance Medium Mainte- 
nance Company (Q) (redesignation of Co A, 72d 
Ord Medium Maint Bn (Q) ), pp. 5-6. 

7 ( 1 ) Proceedings of a Board of Officers Con- 
vened at Port Moresby ... to Investigate . . . 
the Damage to, and Loss of, Ordnance Property 
Located at Central Dump . . . , Manson File, 
OHF. (2) Robinson, The Fight for New Guinea. 
pp. 124-25. 



timely arrival of the third brigade of the 
7th Australian Infantry Division on 9 Sep- 
tember, however, and its prompt dispatch 
up the Kokoda Trail, gave reassurance that 
the Japanese attack would be stopped. In 
an effort to hasten the enemy's withdrawal 
by cutting in on his flank, MacArthur 
ordered to New Guinea the 126th Infan- 
try of the U.S. 32d Infantry Division. The 
first men arrived by air on 15 September, 
their fatigues still wet from the green 
"jungle dye" applied the night before in 
Brisbane. 

Meanwhile, the Australians continued to 
fall back before the Japanese onslaught 
down the Kokoda Trail. They believed 
that they could still contain the enemy, 
and assured GHQ in Australia that the 
best course was to withdraw to good de- 
fensive positions nearer their base on the 
coast. Yet at MacArthur's headquarters 
alarm mounted as the Japanese continued 
to advance. By 16 September the Japa- 
nese were at Ioribaiwa, only thirty-five 
miles north of Port Moresby. In the hills 
behind the port men were digging trenches 
and stringing barbed wire around "centers 
of resistance"; at the airfields, crewmen 
working on airplanes were wearing pistols. 
MacArthur decided to send the 32 d Divi- 
sion's 128th Infantry to Port Moresby im- 
mediately. The entire regiment was trans- 
ported by air between 18 and 23 Septem- 
ber — the greatest mass movement of troops 
by the Air Forces up to that time. 8 

The threat to Port Moresby was soon 
over. In the last days of September the 
Australians, bringing up two 25-pounders 



8 For MacArthur's decision and the reaction of 
the Australians, see McCarthy, South-West Pacific 
Area — First Year: Kokoda to Wau, pp. 234-35, 
242. 



SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN 



69 



and blasting the position at Ioribaiwa, dis- 
covered that the Japanese had withdrawn. 
At the time it seemed that the enemy had 
found it impossible to bring up enough 
supplies over the Kokoda Trail, but, in 
fact, the withdrawal was closely tied in 
with Guadalcanal. Defeated there by the 
U.S. Marines on the night of 13-14 Sep- 
tember, the Japanese had decided to sub- 
ordinate the Papua venture to the retak- 
ing of Guadalcanal and to withdraw for 
the time being to their Buna beachhead. 
To destroy the Japanese at Buna then 
became the most pressing task for the 
Allies. MacArthur planned a pincers 
movement. The Australians were to con- 
tinue to advance over the Kokoda Trail, 
supplied by native carriers and airdrops. 
The Americans were to advance by two 
routes — one inland and one up the north- 
ern coast of Papua. The inland trail, the 
mountainous Kapa Kapa-Jaure track, 
was to be used by the 126th Infantry, the 
coastal plain south of Buna was to be the 
route of the 128th Infantry. The move- 
ment of the U.S. troops began in mid- 
October. As it turned out, only one bat- 
talion went over the difficult and precipi- 
tous Kapa Kapa-Jaure track. The dis- 
covery of adequate sites for airfields on or 
near the coast, notably at Wanigela — a 
little better than halfway between Milne 
Bay and Buna — made it possible to trans- 
port most of the Americans by air over 
the Owen Stanley Range to the north 
shore of Papua. How they were to be 
supplied after they got there was another 
matter. 

The Sea Route to Buna 
As General MacArthur acknowledged at 



the outset of the campaign to retake Buna, 
"the successful employment of any con- 
siderable number of troops on the north 
shore . . . was entirely dependent upon lines 
of communication." The logisticians re- 
sponsible for establishing effective lines of 
communication might well have been ap- 
palled by the task. The great mountain 
barrier ruled out an overland supply route. 
Supply by air would have to await the 
capture and development of airfields closer 
to the front; moreover, air transport at the 
time was being strained to the utmost to 
support, mostly by airdropping, the Aus- 
tralians on the Kokoda Trail and the 
Americans on the inland track. The only 
answer was supply by sea — an extremely 
hazardous undertaking. The shores be- 
tween Milne Bay and Buna are washed by- 
some of the most dangerous waters in the 
world, foul with coral reefs, for which no 
adequate charts then existed. On that 
primitive coast, piers or jetties could not be 
depended upon; the names on the map — 
Wanigela, Pongani, Mendaropu, Embogo, 
Hariko — do not indicate ports, but native 
villages consisting of a few thatched huts 
surrounded by coconut palms. 

No landing craft of the kind that were 
later to make island-hopping feasible were 
then available to General MacArthur. He 
had to depend on small, shallow-draft fish- 
ing vessels that could navigate the reefs and 
approach close enough to the shore for sup- 
plies to be lightered through the breakers. 
For months the Small Ships Section of 
USASOS SWPA had been acquiring such 
craft from the Australians. Its so-called 
catboat flotilla could boast 36 at the begin- 
ning of July 1942: 19 trawlers, 4 harbor 
boats, 4 steamers, 2 speed boats, 2 ketches, 
2 motorships, 1 cabin cruiser, 1 schooner. 



70 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




Part of the Trawler Fleet, Port Moresby 



and i powered lighter. In early Septem- 
ber the Small Ships men were establishing 
an operating base at Port Moresby from 
which their ships could carry ammunition 
up and down the southern coast of Papua, 
mainly from Port Moresby to Milne Bay. 
Plans for the attack on Buna made it neces- 
sary to extend this operation to the north- 
ern coast and to expand it considerably. 9 



9 (i) Masterson, Trans in SWPA, cited above 
ch. Ill, 1117(1). (2) Memo, Kirsten for Holman. 
7 Sep 42, sub: Situation at Maple, 31 Aug to 6 
Sep, Kirsten Personal File, OHF. 



The Coastal Shuttle 

Rations and ammunition for the troops 
being flown over the Owen Stanley Range 
to Wanigela in mid-October were loaded 
on eight small trawlers at the Port Moresby 
dock on 1 1 October under the supervision 
of Lt. Col. Laurence A. McKenny, the 
32 d Division's quartermaster, who was re- 
sponsible for getting the supplies forward. 
The trawlers carried in addition to their 
Australian or Filipino crews a detail from 
the 32 d Division's Quartermaster company 
(the 107th), two or three men to a trawler. 



SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN 



71 



and two Ordnance men from 32d Division 
headquarters, ist Lt. John E. Harbert and 
Technician 3 William C. Featherstone. 
Getting under way next day, the two 
trawlers in the lead, the King John (with 
Colonel McKenny aboard) and the Timo- 
shenko docked on 14 October at Milne 
Bay, a harbor that was very important in 
the plans for the coastal shuttle because it 
was to be the main transshipment point — 
the place from which supplies brought by 
freighters from Australia were to be carried 
forward in the small ships. At the head 
of the bay, where in peacetime Lever 
Brothers had operated one of the largest 
coconut plantations in the world, dock and 
port improvements were proceeding rap- 
idly, in spite of swampy ground and mos- 
quitoes that earned for Milne Bay the 
reputation of being a malarial pesthole. 
On the afternoon of 15 October the 
trawlers sailed for Wanigela with an im- 
portant new passenger — ist Lt. Adam 
Bruce Fahnestock, head of the Small Ships 
Section, who had been, before the war, a 
well-known South Seas explorer. 10 

At Wanigela Colonel McKenny re- 
ceived something of a shock. Brig. Gen. 
Hanford MacNider, commander of the 
32d Division's coastal task force, told him 
that some of the troops had had trouble 
trying to march overland and would have 
to be carried up the coast in the trawlers 
and landed at Pongani. About a hundred 



10 (1) Activities of 107th QM Det at Dobodura 
(Papua), New Guinea, 27 Nov 42-5 Jan 43. Un- 
less otherwise indicated, the account of the small 
ships operation, 12 October- 17 November 1942, is 
taken from this source as well as from Milner's 
Victory in Papua. (2) For the expeditions of the 
Fahnestock brothers, Bruce and Sheridan, see their 
book, Stars to Windward (New York: Harcourt, 
Brace and World, Inc., 1938), and Time, vol. 38 
(October 6, 1941)^.58. 



men of the 128th Infantry came aboard 
the two trawlers, divided almost evenly 
between them. The King John also took 
on a New York Times correspondent, 
Byron Darnton. Safely skirting the treach- 
erous and uncharted reefs around Cape 
Nelson, with the aid of native guides sta- 
tioned at the bows to spot the reefs, the 
two trawlers were preparing to land at 
Pongani on the morning of 18 October 
when a bomber (later determined to be an 
American B-25) circled overhead and 
dropped bombs that killed Fahnestock and 
Darnton and wounded several men. The 
rations and ammunition were saved and 
carried ashore in the first landing on the 
coast behind the Buna front. 

By early November the coastal operation 
had improved considerably. The Austra- 
lians had charted the waters around Cape 
Nelson and found that larger vessels ( 1 00 
to 120 tons) could negotiate the reefs 
around the cape. This discovery made it 
possible to bring sizable shipments to a 
transshipment point on the north shore of 
the cape, Porlock Harbor, where the 
trawlers took over. The larger boats, 
which were operated by the Combined 
Operational Service Command (COSC), 
a consolidation of Australian and U.S. sup- 
ply services effected on 5 October 1942, 
brought in some Australian artillery — two 
3.7-inch (94-mm.) pack howitzers (similar 
to the American 75-mm. howitzer) and 
four 25-pounder guns, of about 3.5-inch 
caliber, firing a shell weighing 25 pounds. 
These pieces were to be transported from 
Porlock Harbor up the coast in a motor- 
driven Japanese barge that had been left 
behind when the Japanese were repulsed at 
Milne Bay. By 16 November when the 
attack on Buna was scheduled to begin, 



72 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



dumps had been established north of Pon- 
gani at Mendaropu, where Maj. Gen. 
Edwin F. Harding, commanding general 
of the 32 d Division, had set up his com- 
mand post, at Oro Bay, and at Embogo; 
an advance dump was planned for Hariko, 
where General MacNider was getting ready- 
to jump off. 

Disaster at Cape Sudest 

Between 1700 and 1800 on 16 Novem- 
ber, three small ships and the Japanese 
barge left Embogo for Hariko with the 
bulk of the supplies for MacNider's attack 
on Buna. The two-masted schooner 
Alacrity departed first, then the trawler 
Minnemura, followed by the barge; the 
trawler Bonwin brought up the rear. 
Though hostile planes had been reported 
up the coast, the little flotilla had no air 
cover — the American and Australian 
fighter planes had left for Port Moresby in 
order to get back to their bases before dark. 
Deck-mounted machine guns were the 
ships' only protection against aircraft. 

Lieutenant Harbert, the Ordnance 
officer of the coastal force, was in charge of 
the Alacrity. Considerably larger than the 
Minnemura and the Bonwin, she carried 
all the reserve ammunition of the 128th 
Infantry's 1st and 2d Battalions, about 100 
tons, and forty native Papuans to help off- 
load the material into outrigger canoes 
and then transport it inland. The Alac- 
rity also had the men and equipment of the 
2 2d Portable Hospital and was towing a 
steel barge carrying ammunition and a re- 
connaissance platoon of the 126th Infantry. 
The Minnemura had aboard General 
Harding, on a visit to General MacNider's 
command post; Col. Herbert B. Laux, an 



Army Ground Forces observer; and an 
Australian war correspondent, Geoffrey 
Reading. On the Japanese barge was 
Brig. Gen. Albert W. Waldron, the 32d 
Division Artillery officer, accompanied by 
Col. Harold F. Handy, another AGF 
observer. General Waldron was making 
his second trip to the front. The preced- 
ing night he had brought up the two Aus- 
tralian mountain howitzers and he now 
had on the barge two 25-pounders, to- 
gether with their Australian crews and 
ammunition. Bringing up the rear was 
the Bonwin, loaded with oil drums and 
carrying a few passengers, including 
Colonel McKenny, two Australian news 
cameramen, and several natives. 11 

Rounding Cape Sudest (about a mile 
south of Hariko) at 1830, the Alacrity had 
just dropped anchor in response to a signal 
from the shore when her passengers saw a 
formation of seventeen Japanese Zeros flying 
very high and heading south. The Zeros 
turned, swooped down in groups of threes, 
and, using incendiary ammunition — de- 
scribed by one of the Australian gunners 
on the barge as a "bright coloured rain of 
death" 12 — strafed and bombed the little 
flotilla. Soon the Bonwin and the barge 
were sinking and the other two ships were 
burning. The captain of the Minnemura 
tried to run his ship inshore, but after 
the Papuan native in the bow dived 
overboard, swimming for the jungle- 
fringed beach, the trawler was soon 



11 ( 1 ) Ltr with Inch, Maj Gen Edwin F. Hard- 
ing (USA Ret) to Lida Mayo, 9 Jul 63. (2) Ltrs, 
Col Maxwell Emerson (USA Ret) to Lida Mayo, 
10 Oct 64, 20 Oct 64 (with Incls). (3) Ltr, Col 
John E. Harbert to Lida Mayo, 26 Oct 64. All in 
OCMH. 

12 John W. O'Brien, Guns and Gunners (Sydney 
and London, 1950), p. 171. 



SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN 



73 



hung up on a reef, a sitting duck for the 
Zeros. General Harding swam safely to 
shore from the Minnemura, as did General 
Waldron from the barge, but Colonel 
McKenny was killed; twenty-three others 
were killed or drowned, and about a hun- 
dred men were wounded. Some survivors 
who could neither swim to land nor get 
into the ships' dinghies were picked up by 
rescue parties sent out from shore. During 
the night the Alacrity and the Minnemura 
burned to the water line. For hours their 
ammunition provided an impressive display 
of pyrotechnics — shells, rockets, and Very 
lights shooting into the tropical night like 
Fourth of July fireworks. 13 

The only cargo saved was the ammuni- 
tion on the barge being towed by the 
Alacrity, and it might also have been lost 
except for heroic action by Lieutenant 
Harbert, who organized a party to pull the 
barge to shore. He remained on the barge 
in spite of repeated strafing, throwing over- 
board the flaming fragments that fell from 
the schooner and extinguishing the fires 
that started. His calmness steadied men 
who had taken cover and his courage in- 
spired them to resume work and save the 
badly needed ammunition. For his ex- 
traordinary heroism he was awarded the 
Distinguished Service Cross, along with ten 
men of the two shore rescue parties who 
also braved enemy fire. 14 

Because of the loss of the cargoes on the 
small ships, General MacNider's offensive 
had to be postponed until 19 November, 
and even then it was difficult to bring the 
supplies up to the front. Japanese bomb- 



ings and strafings at Embogo and Menda- 
ropu on 17 November put the remaining 
trawlers out of commission, and the new 
trawlers that arrived on 21 November also 
suffered enemy air attacks. With the dis- 
ruption for the time being of the small 
ships operation, supplies were airdropped. 
This method of supply had serious draw- 
backs. The difficulty of placing packages 
at the desired point is revealed by the re- 
port of one 32d Division unit whose sup- 
plies fell half a day's march away from the 
place where they were expected: "With a 
day's search using 40 natives we may find 
20%." Fragile Ordnance supplies such as 
.30-caliber ammunition or 81 -mm. mortar 
shells were also damaged in the drop. 
After an airstrip at Dobodura, in the neigh- 
borhood of Buna, was opened on 21 
November, supplies could be landed, but 
the lift of the largest cargo plane then avail- 
able, the C-47, equaled only the pay load 
of the 2 /2-ton truck. Moreover, the 
weather, the high mountains, poor landing 
conditions, loading problems, and enemy 
fighter attacks on the slow, unarmed trans- 
ports always limited air shipments. The 
best supply route to the Buna front was by 
sea, and the disruption of the trawler oper- 
ation was to have serious consequences. 15 

The Attack Begins — and Stalls 
On the rainy morning of 19 November 



13 For a vivid account of the attack on the 
Minnemura, see Reading, Papuan Story, pp. 146- 
56. 

11 (1) GO 64, GHQ SWPA. 28 Dec 42. (2) 
GO i, GHQ SWPA, 1 Jan 43. 



15 (1) AAF Historical Studies 17, Air Action in 
the Papuan Campaign, 21 July 1942-23 January 
1943, pp. 68, 75, MS, Air University, Maxwell 
AFB. (2) Craven and Cate, AAF IV, pp. 1 16-17. 
(3) History of the 9th Ordnance Maintenance 
Battalion, ch. ii, pp. 4-6, and app. 3. (4) 32d 
Div, G-4 Sec Rear Echelon, Recapitulation of Air 
Shipments, 13 Nov 42 to 20 Jan 43, Record of 
Air Shipments (hereafter cited as 32d Div, G-4. 
Air Shipments). 



74 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



about two thousand men of the 32 c! Divi- 
sion began to move on foot through the 
jungle to attack the Japanese entrenched 
on a coastal perimeter about three miles 
long, extending from Buna Village to a 
coconut plantation at Cape Endaiadere. 
The Americans were divided into two 
forces, the left flank advancing toward the 
Buna Village-Buna Mission area and the 
right flank advancing toward the Cape 
Endaiadere area. The two flanks were 
only two or three miles apart, but were 
separated by a swamp that took six or seven 
hours to cross on foot. The forces were 
armed with .30-caliber Mi and Mi 903 
rifles, Browning automatic rifles (BAR's), 
Thompson 45-caliber submachine guns, 
and pistols. Their heavy weapons com- 
panies depended mainly on light .30-caliber 
machine guns and 60-mm. mortars. 
Other weapons for the attack were 81 -mm. 
mortars and 37-mm. antitank guns. Artil- 
lery support consisted of seven Australian 
weapons — three 3.7-inch pack howitzers 
and four 25-pounders. 16 

As the infantrymen moved forward they 
were accompanied by Ordnance troops to 
keep their weapons in repair. A few came 
from the 32d Division's Ordnance Section 
(the 32d's Ordnance company had been 
moved out when the division was triangu- 
larized in December 1941); 17 most had 
been obtained from the 37th Ordnance 
Medium Maintenance Company. The 
left flank was served by 1st Lt. Paul Keene, 



19 ( 1 ) Report, Force Ordnance Officer to Hq 
32d Div, Ordnance Buna Operation (hereafter 
cited as 32d Div Ord Rpt, Buna), p. 2b. (2) Rpt 
of CG Buna Forces, p. 10, and Annex 3, Incl A, 
Field Artillery Rpt, pp. 74-75. 

"Final Rpt of Lt Col Tyler D. Barney, in Field 
Service Key Personnel Rpts (hereafter cited as 
Barney Rpt), OHF. 



10 men from the 37th, and 3 division 
mechanics. Lieutenant Harbert, 8 men 
from the 37th, and 2 division mechanics 
were with troops on the right flank. In 
the opinion of the 32d Division com- 
mander, Keene and Harbert were to dem- 
onstrate "amply . . . the capability of young 
ordnance officers to operate continuously 
under fire and under adverse conditions." 18 

Lt. Col. Tyler D. Barney, the 32d Divi- 
sion Ordnance officer who was soon to 
arrive at the Dobodura airhead from Port 
Moresby, recorded: "'Perhaps at no time 
in recent military history was ordnance 
service rendered under so adverse and con- 
fused conditions." 19 From the very begin- 
ning, the combat troops had to fight the 
jungle as well as the Japanese. They had 
to wade through swamps that were some- 
times neck-deep ; when they came out, their 
rifles and machine guns were full of muck 
and their ammunition was wet. Tropical 
storms cut off air support, the supply of food 
and ammunition ran low, and the men 
were soon depleted by heat, malaria, 
dengue fever, and dysentery. They had 
not been adequately trained for jungle 
warfare and were demoralized by strange 
jungle noises and Japanese sniping tactics. 

Worst of all, the 32d Division troops had 
not been prepared for the strong defenses 
they encountered at Buna. Instead of 
finding the tired, emaciated remnants of a 
Japanese force that had expended itself in 
the attack over the Owen Stanley Range, 
they found the fresh, well-armed Special 
Naval Landing Forces. They were en- 
trenched in strong bunkers constructed of 
foot-wide coconut logs, impervious to in- 



18 32d Div Ord Rpt, Buna, p. 4a. 

19 (1) Barney Rpt. (2) History 9th Ord Maint 
Bn, ch. ii, p. 16. 



SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN 



75 




Japanese Bunker, Buna 



fantry weapons, bunkers so cleverly camou- 
flaged with grasses and tree branches that 
aircraft could not spot them. Even if 
Army Air Forces planes had spotted them, 
bombing and strafing in the dense jungle 
would have endangered nearby friendly 
troop concentrations. General Harding 
quickly realized that tanks might be effec- 
tive, but his efforts to obtain some of the 
lend-lease Stuarts at Milne Bay were de- 
feated by the transportation problem. 
When the first tank was loaded on one of 
the captured Japanese barges, the barge 
sank. The only answer was artillery, but 
the bunkers were so close to the ground 



that the Australian 25-pounders were 
usually ineffective." 

The 32d Division had arrived in New 
Guinea without artillery because American 
planners had doubted whether artillery 
could be successfully used in jungle war- 
fare. General Kenney had emphatically 
stated that heavy artillery had "no place in 
jungle warfare. The artillery in this 
theater flies." 21 Planners believed that 
mortars, aircraft, and the few Australian 



20 ( 1 ) Ltr, Colonel Harbert to Lida Mayo, 26 
Oct 64, OCMH. (2) McCarthy, South-West Pacific 
Area — First Year: Kokoda to Wau, p. 363. 

21 AAF Study 17, p. 72. 



76 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



weapons could provide adequate support 
for the infantry. Nevertheless, as an ex- 
periment, on 13 November a single 105- 
mm. howitzer of Battery A, 129th Field 
Artillery, 32 d Division, was broken down, 
and together with a gun crew, an Austra- 
lian tractor, and about twenty-five rounds 
of ammunition was flown to Port Moresby 
from Brisbane. On 26 November, in sup- 
port of General Harding's Thanksgiving 
Day offensive, the howitzer with its crew, 
tractor, and 1 00 rounds of ammunition was 
flown to Dobodura in three DC-3 trans- 
port planes and put into position at the 
front under the code name Dusty." 

Dusty was soon highly prized. When 
it was fired with an HE projectile using 
an M48 delay fuze it could destroy 
Japanese bunkers. Considered by General 
Waldron, the 32 d Division artillery officer, 
"a superb weapon, durable, accurate, and 
with great firepower, . . . better by far than 
anything the Japs had to bring against 
us," 23 the howitzer rendered excellent serv- 
ice — until its ammunition gave out. In 
the first few days the initial shipment was 
increased to nearly 400 rounds, all appar- 
ently HE. This was fired rapidly and in 
about a week all the shells in Papua had 
been expended. No adequate supply was 
to be available until late in December. 
One explanation was that Advance New 
Guinea Force, which controlled the supply 
of all artillery ammunition and was under 
an Australian commander until 13 Jan- 
uary, had given priority to the Australian 



22 ( 1 ) Rpt of CG Buna Forces, Annex 3, Incl 
A, Field Arty Rpt, pp. 74-75. (2) History 9th Ord 
Maint Bn, ch. ii, pp. 7, 9, 21. (3) General George C 
Kenney, General Kenney Reports (New York: 
Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1944), pp. 140-41, 151. 

^Maj. Gen. Albert W. Waldron, "Ordnance in 
Jungle Warfare," Army Ordnance. XXVI (May- 
June, i944)> 5 2 °- 



25-pounder ammunition; but the underly- 
ing reason was that transportation, by air 
or sea, was unequal to demands. Because 
of the lack of ammunition, Dusty was 
silent when most needed; and for the same 
reason, the remaining three 105-mm. how- 
itzers of Battery A, 129th Field Artillery, 
flown to New Guinea by 22 November, 
were not sent to the front but remained at 
Port Moresby throughout the Papua Cam- 
paign. 24 

/ Corps Takes Over 

By the end of November the 32d Divi- 
sion's attack on Buna had bogged down. 
General MacArthur, having set up his 
headquarters at Port Moresby on 6 No- 
vember, was, in the words of an Australian 
historian, "in the grip of great disquiet." 
He sent to Australia for Lt. Gen. Robert L. 
Eichelberger, commanding general of I 
Corps, and, in a dramatic interview on 1 
December, ordered him to take over com- 
mand of all U.S. troops in the Papua 
Campaign. 

The change brought to Port Moresby 
Col. Marshall E. Darby, Ordnance officer 
of I Corps and commander of the 9th 
Ordnance Maintenance Battalion, which 
had arrived in Australia in October. 
Darby was placed in command of the rear 
detachment for Buna Force (Buna Force 
was the new name for the American for- 
ward tactical command — a combination of 
I Corps and 32d Division headquarters) 
and thus had command of all troops under 



24 ( 1 ) History 9th Ord Maint Bn, ch. ii, apps. 
5, 7. (2) 32d Div, G-4, Air Shipments. (3) Robert 
L. Eichelberger, Our Jungle Road to Tokyo (New 
York: The Viking Press, 1950), pp. 40-45. 

25 McCarthy, South-West Pacific Area — First 
Year: Kokoda to Wau, p. 371. 



SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN 



77 



the administrative control of I Corps in the 
Port Moresby area. His small staff, never 
exceeding four officers and six enlisted men, 
included men from other corps staff sec- 
tions as well as Ordnance. Ordnance 
matters, which primarily concerned ammu- 
nition, were of major importance, but 
Darby could not give his full time to them. 
Also, he had many headquarters to deal 
with — GHQ, Advance New Guinea Force, 
the Fifth Air Force, and the Advanced 
Base Section, New Guinea — from his point 
of view, "a SNAFU mess . . . Battling 
with GHQ— NGF— 5th Air Force— Base 
Sect — all wanting to run the war." 26 

Sometimes in order to get action Darby 
felt he had to appeal directly to Base Sec- 
tion 3. On 2 December he bypassed nor- 
mal channels — Advanced Base and GHQ 
Advance Section — to radio directly to the 
Ordnance officer at Base Section 3 for 800 
rounds of 105-mm. ammunition by the 
first air priority, pending the arrival of a 
sea-borne supply. His reason for going 
outside channels was that at the moment 
the ammunition shipment "was the most 
important thing in the world" and he 
"couldn't trust anyone with it except the 
Ordnance Department." When no am- 
munition had arrived by 6 December he 
sent a sharp message to corps headquarters 
in Australia explaining his needs and what 
he had done, requesting the corps "to raise 
a little hell" about the ammunition, and 
pointing out that General Eichelberger had 
"asked for 100 rounds per day for 10 days 
starting 5 December and there isn't a single 
damned round here." Nevertheless, weeks 
went by before a steady flow of 105-mm. 
ammunition reached the front; and in the 



meantime, Darby was plagued at times by 
shortages of other types as well. 27 

Ammunition Supply to Buna Force 

In theory the ammunition plan for the 
Papua Campaign calling for ten units of 
fire — five in USASOS dumps at Port 
Moresby and five in forward dumps — was 
adequate; but transportation difficulties 
made for a variable and irregular supply 
in the forward areas. About 1 o December 
Buna Force attempted automatic supply 
from SOS to forward dumps, but aban- 
doned it a week later as impractical because 
of frequent changes in needs, air priorities, 
weather, and other factors. Troops ex- 
pended ammunition by round and required 
replenishment by rounds of specific types. 
After 17 December supply was strictly on 
the basis of a daily radio sent by Colonel 
Barney from Dobodura to Port Moresby." 8 

Theater Ordnance officers tried to cor- 
relate issues at bases, losses through ship- 
ments, and expenditures by troops, but it 
was exceedingly difficult to get expenditure 
reports from the combat units because of 
dispersion and the paper work involved. 
One big unknown factor was always the 
quantity lost in the jungle or bypassed at 
small supply points when the fighting 
deviated from the supply plan. From the 
best information available, the highest ex- 
penditures in the campaign were of .30- 



29 History 9th Ord Maint Bn, app. 1 . 



27 ( 1 ) Extracts, Ltrs, Rear Det to DCofS I 
Corps, 6 Dec 42; Rear Det to AG I Corps, 1 1 Dec 
42. Both in History 9th Ord Maint Bn, ch. ii, 
app. 7. (2) 32d Div, G-4, Air Shipments. (3) 
Chronicle Record of Events, Advanced Echelon, 
Hqs I Corps, Since 30 Nov 1942, P- 3> 3'4-7 
History-Buna Forces, in I Corps, AG Sec, KCRC. 

28 (1) Barney Rpt, p. 2. (2) History 9th Ord 
Maint Bn, ch. ii, pp. 6-7, and app. 8, Ordnance 
Lessons of the Buna Campaign, p. 2. 



78 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



caliber ball ammunition for the Mi rifle, 
.45-caliber ammunition for the submachine 
gun, and HE ammunition for the 81 -mm. 
mortar, which was unexpectedly employed 
as a substitute for artillery. 29 

The high expenditure of .45-caliber 
rounds for the submachine (Tommy) gun 
was partly caused by the 32 d Division in- 
fantrymen's preference for the Tommy gun 
over the BAR. In contrast to the marines 
on Guadalcanal, who swore by the BAR 
(and objected to the Tommy gun because 
it sounded like a Japanese weapon and 
drew friendly fire), the Army troops in 
Papua considered the BAR too heavy and 
clumsy for quick use in the jungle and too 
hard to keep in repair. High expenditures 
of ammunition for the submachine gun, 
as well as for the popular .30-caliber light 
machine gun and Mi rifles, were also 
caused by the fact that the 32 d Division 
troops had been inadequately trained for 
the campaign — their first experience in 
combat — and often failed markedly to ex- 
ercise fire discipline and control, firing 
many more rounds than were either antici- 
pated or necessary. Firing was often 
"wild and prolonged," reported the I 
Corps G— 3, "at imaginary targets or no 
targets at all." The Japanese, who them- 
selves displayed excellent fire discipline, 
noted the poor habits of the American 
soldiers. "The enemy is using ammunition 
wildly," noted one Japanese in his diary. 
To another it seemed that the Americans 
shot "at any sound due to illusion," firing 
light machine guns and throwing hand 
grenades "recklessly." A third remarked 
that the Americans were "in the jungle 
firing as long as their ammunition lasts. 



Maybe they get more money for firing so 
many rounds." A possible shortage of 
.30-caliber machine gun ammunition was 
averted by taking the .30-caliber rounds 
for the little-used BAR's from the 20-round 
magazines and reloading them into fabric 
belts for the machine guns. 30 

Larger quantities of 81 -mm. mortar am- 
munition than had been anticipated were 
needed because of the lack of 105-mm. 
howitzer ammunition. The relatively 
small area of the battlefield allowed the 8 1 - 
mm. mortar, often fired in batteries of six 
or more pieces, to cover large portions of 
enemy territory, and the slowness of the 
advance permitted the mortars to move 
forward fast enough to support the infantry. 
Reports of duds in the 81 -mm. heavy 
rounds (M56) were probably due to the 
fact that the rounds were being fired with 
a short delay fuze that permitted the pro- 
jectile to bury itself far enough in mud or 
swamp water to smother the detonation, 
leaving no crater. When the round was 
fired with an instantaneous fuze and hit 
on solid ground, a fine "daisy cutter" effect 
was achieved. Though it could not de- 
stroy the stronger Japanese bunkers, the 
mortar was still greatly feared by the 
enemy and was considered by the com- 
manding general of Buna Force as prob- 
ably the most effective weapon used during 
the campaign. 31 

At the end of the first week in December 
a thousand rounds of 37-mm. canister am- 



29 (1) Holman Comments 1. (2) Rpt of Ord 
Activities USASOS SWPA, Jan 43. 



30 (1) Rpt of CG Buna Forces, pp. 61, 65-66, 
70. (2) 32c! Div Ord Rpt, Buna. 

31 ( 1 ) Memos, Holman for Manson, 9 Jan 43, 
no sub; Manson for Holman, 14 Jan 43, no sub. 
Both in Manson File, OHF. (2) History 9th Ord 
Maint Bn, ch. ii, pp. 11-12. (3) 32d Div Ord 
Rpt, Buna, p. 6. (4) SWPA Rpt (Henry), cited 
above, ch. Ill, ni7( 1 ). 



SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN 



79 



munition arrived unexpectedly at Port 
Moresby by air and sea, transshipped via 
Brisbane from the marines at Guadalcanal, 
who had received large quantities in Sep- 
tember. A projectile that dates back to 
the Civil War, a canister is a metal cylinder 
containing metal fragments. When fired, 
it splits open, scattering its contents. 
Colonel Barney radioed Australia for infor- 
mation on how to fire the canister and was 
told to shoot it and find out. While ex- 
perimenting, several men were wounded, 
but after they had learned how to handle 
and fire it the canister proved highly effec- 
tive. Making possible the employment 
against troops of the 37-mm. antitank gun 
— hitherto of limited use because the 
Japanese were not using tanks and because 
its antitank round was not powerful enough 
to destroy the thick Japanese bunkers — the 
37-mm. canister ammunition discharged its 
pellets with lethal, shotgun effect on troops 
in the open and on those protected only 
by brush or undergrowth. 32 

No American hand grenades reached the 
front until mid-December because of diffi- 
culty with the fuzes. Until then the troops 
used Australian fragmentation grenades, 
which in some cases were preferred to the 
American as being more powerful, more 
dependable, and quicker to explode so that 
the enemy had less time to pick up the 
grenade and hurl it back. In other cases 
the American was preferred in spite of its 
tendency to emit sparks and give away the 
position of the thrower at night. 33 Neither 



2 (i) Barney Rpt. (2) History 9th Ord Maint 
Bn, ch. ii, pp. 10-11. (3) Miller, Guadalcanal: 
The First Offensive, p. 123. 

33 ( 1 ) 32d Div Ord Rpt, pp. 3a, 6. (2) 32d Div, 
G-4, Air Shipments. (3) Ltr, 1st Lt J. J. Phillips, 
Jr., 703d Ord Co, to Ord Officer USASOS, 19 
Dec 42, sub: Report of Ordnance Situation on the 



was effective against Japanese in bunkers, 
nor was the antitank grenade (M9) of any 
use against them. The Australians had 
rifle grenades that could be fired through 
the slit openings of the bunkers with dev- 
astating effect, but although the Americans 
requested rifle grenades from Australia 
early in the operation, they did not receive 
any at the front during the Papua Cam- 
paign. An offensive hand grenade that 
would kill or incapacitate all the defenders 
in a given bunker by its blast effect would 
have been of great value. To fill the need, 
the Australians contrived an effective "blast 
bomb" out of an Australian hand grenade, 
two pounds of loose ammonal, a tin con- 
tainer, and some adhesive tape. 34 

The supply of bombs to the Fifth Air 
Force from Major Manson's dumps at Port 
Moresby was hampered at times because 
Manson's crew could not always inventory 
its stocks properly. This was especially 
serious in the case of the fragmentation 
bombs. General Kenney had discovered 
that small bombs of this type equipped 
with a supersensitive fuze that would 
detonate them instantaneously on contact 
even with foliage were most effective in the 
jungle. He had used them in an attack 
on Buna on 12 September, and they were 
very much in demand as the Papua Cam- 
paign drew to a close early in January 
1943. It was thought that there were 
none left in New Guinea, until a search 



Buna Front, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections. 
KCRC. (4) Rpt, Col Harry T. Creswell and Maj 
Charles W. Walson, Observer's Report South and 
Southwest Pacific, Team 4 (hereafter cited as Ob- 
servers Rpt Team 4), p. 59, Armored School Lib- 
rary, Fort Knox. 

34 ( 1 ) Notes, 26 Oct 42, Ordnance Conference 
25 Oct 42 at Base Sec 3, p. 1, AFWESPAC Ord 
Sec 337, KCRC. (2) 32d Div Ord Rpt, Buna, p. 
6. (3) Observer's Rpt Team 4, p. 131. 



80 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



through the USASOS dumps revealed 
about 400 clusters on which there was no 
record. The discovery came too late for 
the bombs to be used in support of ground 
operations in the Buna action. 35 

Maintenance in the Jungle 

Working in oppressive heat — sometimes 
in several feet of water — depleted by 
disease, and lacking any repair equipment 
other than the hand tools they carried, the 
maintenance detachments under Keene 
and Harbert "did a splendid job," reported 
one Ordnance observer, "never more than 
five or ten minutes behind the lines, with 
no difficulty keeping up parts and making 
repairs." 36 

Parts most in demand were main recoil 
springs for submachine guns, rear sight and 
bolt assemblies for Mi rifles, driving 
springs and cocking levers for light machine 
guns, and firing pins for 60-mm. and 81- 
mm. mortars, and to obtain them the crews 
cannibalized arms and equipment left on 
the battlefield. Cannibalization was waste- 
ful and was vigorously opposed by Colonel 
Holman, who advocated the evacuation of 
damaged weapons and vehicles to Ord- 
nance service centers so they could be torn 
down and rebuilt. In later campaigns in 
the Pacific Holman was able to put this 
procedure into effect but in Papua canni- 
balization was often the only way to get 
parts. Weapons parts had been extremely 



35 (i)Ltr, Maj Robert S. Blodgett to Col Hol- 
man, 13 Jan 43, no sub, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 
Inspections, KCRC. (2) Kenney, General Kenney 
Reports, pp. 12-13, 76, 93-94, 98. (3) Craven 
and Cate, AAF IV, p. 106. (4) Green, Thomson, 
and Roots, The Ordnance Department: Planning 
Munitions for War, pp. 459-61. 

M SWPARpt (Henry), p. 4. 



scarce in Australia ever since the 32d Divi- 
sion landed in May 1942. There was also 
the problem of bringing up supplies. In 
early December, when the first attacks by 
Buna Force took place, only seven jeeps 
and three 1 -ton trailers had been flown into 
Dobodura and were available (when roads 
permitted) for carrying supplies to the 
front. Most of the supply burden was 
borne by carrier lines of Papuan natives, 
laden mainly with rations and ammuni- 
tion. 37 

Salvage represented about 90 percent of 
the Ordnance maintenance task at the 
front. 38 Sometimes it was dangerous work. 
There were times when maintenance men 
braved enemy fire to retrieve weapons that 
might otherwise have fallen into the hands 
of the enemy. On one occasion, for ex- 
ample, Technician Featherstone, who had 
participated in the earliest trawler opera- 
tion, "with utter disregard for his own per- 
sonal safety, volunteered and went forward 
under heavy enemy fire to retrieve weapons 
on the front lines which had been aban- 
doned by the dead and wounded." For 
this and other instances of gallantry in 
action near Buna between 16 November 
1942 and 3 January 1943, he was awarded 
the Silver Star. 39 More weapons could 
have been saved if Keene and Harbert had 
had more men to spare for the job. Addi- 
tional Ordnance men were requested by 
the 32 d Division chief of staff early in De- 
cember, but it was 3 January 1943 before 
they arrived. For lack of salvage men. 



37 ( 1 ) Holman Comments 1. (2) History 9th 
Ord Maint Bn, ch. ii, p. 17. (3) SWPA Rpt 
(Henry), p. 4. (4) Barney Rpt, p. 2. (5) Memo, 
15 Dec 42, sub: Ordnance Problems in Jungle 
Operations, p. 2, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 438 Clean- 
ing and Preserving Material, KCRC. 

38 Rpt of CG Buna Forces, Annex 4, p. 87. 

30 GO 12, Hq U.S. Forces Buna Area, 18 Jan 43. 



SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN 



81 



many rifles and machine guns abandoned 
on the battlefield were damaged by rust be- 
yond repair. The importance of battle- 
field salvage was one of the main Ordnance 
lessons of the Papua Campaign. 40 

Materials to clean and oil the small arms 
that had been carried through the swamps 
were much in demand. Cleaning and pre- 
serving (C&P) materials had been in short 
supply to begin with. Many of the Mi 
rifles had been issued without oil and thong 
cases. Often when the men had the cases 
they simply threw them away to lighten the 
load they were carrying. By 3 December 
the shortage of gun oil, small individual 
containers for oil, brushes, cleaning rods, 
and other C&P items was serious enough to 
affect operations. One combat officer, ob- 
serving that the first thing the men stripped 
from the Japanese dead or wounded was 
the neat bakelite oil case they carried, re- 
ported that gun oil was "very precious and 
always short." Urgent messages charac- 
terized the condition of small arms at the 
front as "deplorable" and "terrible." 41 

The cleaning and preserving items were 
not available at Port Moresby. Twenty- 
five tons that had been awaiting shipment 
on the docks at Brisbane had gone forward 
by water in mid-November but were still 
en route at the beginning of December. 
One portion of this cargo especially needed 
at the front consisted of 4,000 4-ounce 



40 ( 1 ) Advanced Base USASOS SWPA Ord- 
nance Report of Operations, p. 2, AFWESPAC 
Ord Sec 370.2 Monthly Rpt of Ord Opns Adv 
BaseN.G., KCRC. (2) Holman Comments 1. 

"■ ( 1 ) History 9th Ord Maint Bn, ch. ii, pp. 
15-16, and app. 8, p. 3. (2) 32d Div Ord Rpt, 
Buna, p. 5. (3) Notes, 26 Oct 42, Conf 25 Oct 
42 Base Sec 3. (4) Monthly Rpt of Opns, Nov 
42, Base Sec 3, USASOS SWPA, AFWESPAC 
Ord Sec 370.2, KCRC. (5) Odell Narrative, Dec 
42, 12 Station Hospital, Australia, in Milner 
Notes. 



metal cans for gun oil, to be carried by the 
individual soldier. On an urgent, first 
priority requisition from Colonel Darby to 
Brisbane, a new shipment of containers 
went off immediately by air from Towns- 
ville. By the time it arrived additional 
quantities were needed and Darby re- 
quested that 3,000 be shipped by air. Be- 
cause planes out of Brisbane were 
grounded, the containers had to go to 
Townsville by passenger train and did not 
arrive until five days after Darby's request, 
a delay that evidenced some of the diffi- 
culties of supply by air. Nevertheless, air 
was the only recourse in an emergency. 
Air delivery of at least thirty gallons of gun 
oil and six bales of patches, the shipment to 
be duplicated every forty-eight hours, was 
requested on 18 December. At that time 
the stock of oil and patches in the fighting 
area was reported to be zero. The men at 
the front used Quartermaster motor oil and 
captured Japanese C&P items and in the 
jungle when these were unavailable greased 
their small arms with candles, graphite 
pencils, and ordinary Vaseline. 42 

By the end of December as sea trans- 
portation improved, increasing supplies of 
cleaning and preserving materials began to 
reach the front. But to those responsible 
in Australia the situation was still critical. 
Strenuous efforts were being made to im- 
prove the supply to Papua and to insure 
that shortages of cleaning and preserving 
materials would not recur. When the 
supply of metal oil containers (demanded 
in much larger quantities than had been 
foreseen) was exhausted, Colonel Holman 
drew on the Australian Army for 2 -ounce 



42 ( 1 ) History 9th Ord Maint Bn, ch. ii, pp. 
15-16, and app. 7. (2) Barney Rpt, p. 2. (3) 
32d Div Rpt, Buna, p. 5. 



82 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



plastic containers. He also attempted to 
have oil and thong cases manufactured 
locally. His staff experimented with dif- 
ferent types of rust preventives for small 
arms in the damp jungles and after six 
months of tests came up with a lubricant 
containing lanolin that withstood corrosion 
under the severest conditions. The Papua 
Campaign ended before the new lubricant 
could be introduced for more than field 
tests in combat, but it offered hope for 
better maintenance in future jungle cam- 
paigns. 43 

The Forward Bases 

In mid-December four lend-lease Stuart 
tanks were landed by sea at Hariko, only a 
few miles from the battlefield, an "amazing 
achievement" in the opinion of General 
Herring, commanding general of Advance 
New Guinea Force. These tanks, and 
those following a few days later, had little 
effect on the battle for Buna; the light, fast 
Stuarts, slowed by swamp mud choked 
with kunai grass, were, in the words of the 
Australian historian of the battle, "like race 
horses harnessed to heavy ploughs"; more- 
over, they were "almost blind" because 
tank vision, restricted at the best of times, 
was shut off by the tropical growth. 44 Yet 
the fact that the tanks could be landed on 
that coast at all, only a month after Gen- 
eral Harding's ill-starred effort to bring 
them up by barge from Milne Bay, showed 



" ( i ) Memo, USASOS COrdO, R.H.E. [Maj 
R. H. Einfledt] for Manson, no sub, 10 Jan 43. 
(2) Memo, Manson for Einfledt, no sub, 14 Jan 
43. Both in Manson File, OHF. (3) Monthly 
Rpt of Opns, Jan 43, Base Sec 3, USASOS SWPA, 
p. 1, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 370.2, KCRC. 

"McCarthy, South-West Pacific — The First 
Year: Kokoda to Wau, pp. 462, 517. 



how far the sea supply operation had pro- 
gressed in a very short time. 

Sizable ships could now come into Oro 
Bay, a harbor about fifteen miles southeast 
of Buna. The 3,300-ton Dutch freighter 
Karsik on the night of 11-12 December 
brought the tanks from Port Moresby into 
Oro Bay. Unloading was supervised by 
Maj. Carroll K. Moffatt of Combined 
Operational Service Command, who had 
just arrived in the area with the first land- 
ing craft to reach the combat zone — six 
Higgins boats (LCVP's) and two Austra- 
lian barges. The tanks were transferred to 
the barges, which were towed by motor 
launches, and carried up the coast through 
the reefs to Hariko. There the tank crews 
drove them over the side of the barges onto 
the beach. 45 

The establishment of an effective line of 
supply by sea made it necessary to increase 
Ordnance service at Oro Bay as well as 
Milne Bay. For these forward bases Maj. 
Byrne C. Manson recommended composite 
companies of 6 officers and 180 men each, 
including headquarters, ammunition, de- 
pot, weapons maintenance, and motor 
maintenance men, but this was merely a 
hope for the future. 46 For the present he 
had to send piecemeal detachments. At 
Milne Bay a depot company began to 
arrive on 26 November, but no effective 
motor maintenance was possible until mid- 
December when Manson sent to Milne Bay 
a detachment of his Port Moresby com- 
pany, now redesignated the 3425th Ord- 
nance Medium Maintenance Company 



' 5 Ibid., pp. 452-53- 

49 Manson to COrdO, 22 Nov 42, sub: Report 
of Operations, November 1942, AFWESPAC Ord 
Sec 370.2 Monthly Rpt of Opns Adv Base N.G., 
KCRC. 



SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN 



83 



(Q). At Oro Bay he could provide dur- 
ing the Papua Campaign only small de- 
tachments of headquarters, maintenance, 
and depot troops, a number inadequate to 
support growing operations. Even clerks 
had to double as ammunition handlers. 
Toward the end of the campaign the Oro 
Bay Ordnance officer was "frantically call- 
ing for help and with good reason." 47 

The problem of motor maintenance 
arose at Oro Bay in early December when 
tracks for jeeps from Hariko and Dobodura 
to the front were finally completed. From 
dumps or open beaches, jeeps pulled their 
i -ton trailers over primitive roads cordu- 
royed with coconut logs and interspersed 
with mudholes that played havoc with 
springs, shock absorbers, and brake cylin- 
ders. The jeeps proved to be sturdily built 
— no other motor vehicles could have oper- 
ated under such conditions — but even the 
jeeps had difficulty in the mud. When 
tropical rains turned many areas into quag- 
mires, oversized command car tires were 
mounted on the jeeps, or, better yet, dual 
wheels using standard tires were con- 
structed for the rear axles of the vehicles. 
The initial job of conversion to six wheels 
was done almost overnight by half a dozen 
men of the 3425th Ordnance Medium 
Maintenance Company (Q) at Milne Bay. 
Once this conversion proved workable, the 
6-wheeled jeeps were prepared in Australia 
for Papua. 48 



47 (1) Unit History, 818th Ord Depot Co. (2) 
History 3425th Ord Medium Maintenance Co. (3) 
History USASOS, ch. xvii, Base B at Oro Bay, 
New Guinea, December 1942 to March 1944, pp. 
74-75- 

48 (1) Ltr, Phillips to COrdO, USASOS, 19 
Dec 42, sub: Rpt of Ord Situation on Buna Front. 
(2) Rpt, Col Cavanaugh, 15 Feb 43, sub: Report 
on Inspection Trip (hereafter cited as Cavanaugh 
Rpt 15 Feb). Both in AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 



The Shortage of Base Personnel 
and Supplies 

To provide Ordnance service at three 
major bases — Port Moresby, Milne Bay, 
and Oro Bay — and at several minor bases, 
Major Manson had only 650 men during 
the entire campaign. The acute man- 
power shortage began in October, when the 
arrival of the 32 d Division troops greatly 
increased the Ordnance load and at the 
same time pre-empted the shipping needed 
to transport base personnel. An 8-man 
detachment of the 360th Composite Com- 
pany and a 70-man detachment of the 
55th Ordnance Ammunition Company 
arrived in October, but the rest of the am- 
munition company and the maintenance 
men — the 37th Ordnance Medium Main- 
tenance Company and the remainder of 
Company A, 72d Ordnance Medium 
Maintenance Battalion (Q) — did not 
arrive until late November or early Decem- 
ber. Supply shipments were also affected. 
For three weeks in October not a single 
cargo ship moved from Brisbane to New 
Guinea. There was some improvement in 
November, and small air shipments helped, 
but it was early January before a regular 
sea-and-air shipping schedule for Ordnance 
materiel was established and large stocks 
could be forwarded. 49 

Inspections, KCRC. (3) History USASOS, ch. 
xvii, pp. 37-38. (4) Memo, Manson for TV 3 James 
A. Tuthill et al, 3425th Ord Medium Maint Co, 
15 Jan 43, sub: Letter of Commendation, in 
History 3425th Ord Medium Maint Co. 

49 ( 1 ) For the personnel shortage see file, AFWES- 
PAC Ord Sec 200.3 Assignment of Personnel. 
KCRC, correspondence from September 1942- 
January 1943, particularly, Ltrs, Manson toCOrdO. 
28 Sep 42, sub: Ammunition Personnel, and 27 
Nov 42, sub: Ordnance Personnel. (2) Ltr, Maj 
Nathan J. Forb to Col Cavanaugh, 5 Dec 42, sub: 
Staff Visit Maple, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 In- 
spections, KCRC. 



84 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



The motor maintenance problem, not 
only new to Ordnance but new to the 
Army under combat conditions, was stag- 
gering. The fleet of 845 vehicles at Port 
Moresby in October had grown by mid- 
December to 2,500, and was increasing by 
100 a week. An average of 4,000 tons of 
cargo, Australian and American, was being 
hauled every day from the docks, in addi- 
tion to the hauling within the base of men, 
water, rations, and ammunition. Over 
roads badly corrugated, alternately very 
dusty and very muddy, trucks operated 
twenty-four hours a day with very little first 
or second echelon maintenance. One unit 
reported, "We are too busy hauling to stop 
and grease the trucks." Many of the vehi- 
cles had arrived from Australia in poor 
condition, damaged, sometimes demolished, 
en route; some came with smooth tires, 
some lacking ignition keys, and many with- 
out tools. 50 

Spare parts were scarce until January, 
when heavy shipments began to come in. 
By then it had become evident that no mat- 
ter how many parts were sent, there would 
never be enough as long as drivers con- 
tinued to neglect first and second echelon 
maintenance. Manson detailed an inspec- 
tion team of one officer and three enlisted 
men to visit motor pools, report on the con- 
dition and state of maintenance of each 
vehicle inspected, and teach drivers the 
danger of reckless driving and overloading. 
The team brought about some improve- 
ment, but the base continued to be "littered 
with broken down vehicles." The only 
answer was more maintenance troops, in- 



cluding a heavy maintenance company, 
but none were available. 51 



Heat, Disease, and Hunger 

The shortage of Ordnance men at the 
bases in Papua was aggravated by the hard 
working conditions. An observer noted 
that the heat made everyone "about 50% 
efficient"; 52 many of the men suffered from 
recurring attacks of malaria and other 
diseases. Along with most of the other 
troops in New Guinea, they did not have 
enough food because of the shipping short- 
age. At Port Moresby one inspection 
officer saw "hungry men working them- 
selves beyond their capacity seven days a 
week in an effort to provide Ordnance 
service to troops whose numbers would 
have ordinarily required five times the 
Ordnance personnel available." 53 Refus- 
ing "to wring the last ounce of energy from 
the men under my control merely to show 
how much can be done with so few men," 
Manson sent strongly worded requests to 
Colonel Holman for more personnel. Be- 



"(i)Memo, Maj Spencer B. Booz for COrdO, 
USASOS, 19 Dec 42. (2) Cavanaugh Rpt 15 
Feb. (3) Ltr, Forb to Cavanaugh, 5 Dec 42. AH 
in AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections, KCRC. 



51 ( 1 ) Monthly Rpt of Opns, Jan 43, Base Sec- 
tion 3, USASOS SWPA, p. 1, 370.2 AFWESPAC 
Ord Sec, KCRC. (2) Cavanaugh Rpt 15 Feb. 
(3) Memo, Manson for CG U.S. Advanced Base, 
7 Jan 43, no sub. (4) Incl to Memo, Manson for 
COrdO USASOS, 8 Jan 43, sub: Motor Mainte- 
nance. (5) Ltr, Manson to Holman, 11 Jan 43, 
no sub. Last three in 200.3 Assignment of Per- 
sonnel AFWESPAC Ord Sec, KCRC. 

52 ( 1 ) Ltr, Cavanaugh to Holman, 24 Jan 43. 
(2) Ltr, Manson to Holman, n Jan 43, AFWES- 
PAC Ord Sec 200.3 Assignment of Personnel, 
KCRC. (3) Reports for period in file, AFWES- 
PAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections, KCRC. (4) For 
the disease rate see Memo, 3 2d Div Surgeon for 
CG Buna Force, 15 Jan 43, sub: Health of Com- 
mand, Final Report, in History 9th Ord Maint 
Bn, ch. ii, app. 13. 

° :| Ltr, Byrne C. Manson to Lida Mayo, 31 May 
66. Manson file. 



SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN 



85 



yond a few depot men and a handful of 
staff officers, Holman could do little, for 
the men were not available. 54 

Under these circumstances, Major Man- 
son did an outstanding job for which he 
received the Legion of Merit. He kept 
the flow of Ordnance supplies moving up 
front; made inspection trips to forward 
bases covering every road and installation 
in New Guinea; planned intelligently; and 
sent valuable reports and recommendations 
back to Australia. All this was accom- 
plished under great pressure, sometimes 
when he himself was ill. By the last week 
in January the I Corps medical officer was 
afraid that Manson would "crack" unless 
he was given more help and granted leave 
to Australia. 55 

Captured Japanese Materiel 

Toward the end of the campaign Major 
Manson had to organize a technical section 
on enemy munitions. Since September 
1942 the Ordnance Department in Wash- 
ington had been requesting captured 
Japanese materiel. Colonel Holman had 
been able to send only a few bombs and 
fuzes, some obtained from an Australian 
bomb disposal section at Port Moresby, 
others from the Ordnance officers at Milne 
Bay and Townsville. In the early stages 



54 ( 1 ) Ltr, Manson to Holman, 1 1 Jan 43. 
AFWESPAC Ord Sec 200.3 Assignment of Per- 
sonnel, KCRC. (2) Holman Comments 1. 

55 ( 1 ) Ltr, Blodgett to Holman, 13 Jan 43, no 
sub, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 333 Inspections. (2) 
Ltr, Cavanaugh to Holman, 24 Jan 43; Memo, 
Col Clinton J. Harrold, S-4 U.S. Advance Base, 
for CG Advance Base, 25 Feb 43, sub: Commenda- 
tion. (3) GO 42, USAFFE 29 Jul 43. All in Man- 
son File. It was not until mid-April that Manson 
was transferred to Australia. (4) Interv with Hol- 
man and Kirsten, 12 Apr 56 



of the Papua Campaign, Advance New 
Guinea Force — the Australian command 
under which all Allied forces operated — 
had responsibility for all Japanese materiel 
sent into the Port Moresby area, including 
that captured by Americans. The Austra- 
lians were willing to furnish the Americans 
reports, evaluations, and photographs, but 
the weapons themselves went to an Aus- 
tralian Imperial Forces museum in Mel- 
bourne, and reports on important items, 
such as a Japanese bullet that appeared 
to be of an explosive or dum-dum type, 
were sometimes very slow in arriv- 
ing at American headquarters. The pro- 
cedure was obviously unsatisfactory, and 
during the autumn of 1942 Colonel Hol- 
man worked out a new system with the 
Australians: if Americans captured the 
items they got the first piece, the Austra- 
lians the second, and vice versa. By Jan- 
uary 1943 this new procedure was in effect, 
and a 6-man detachment from a small 
Ordnance technical intelligence unit that 
had just arrived in Australia was ear- 
marked for Port Moresby. 56 

"A Poor Man's War" 

With the aid of better transportation to 
the front, bringing in fresh troops and more 
effective ammunition to batter down Japa- 
nese bunkers, the victory came at Buna on 



58 (1) Rad 1780, Washington, D.C. to USASOS, 
17 Sep 42. (2) Ltr, Holman to CofOrd, 14 Nov 
42, sub: Samples of Japanese Munitions. (3) 
Memo, J. L. H. for G-4 Supply, 4 Jan 43. All 
in AF'VESPAC Ord Sec 386.3 Captured Enemy 
Ordnance and Ammunition, KCRC. (4) Memo, 
Holman for Manson, 9 Jan 43; Ltr, Manson to 
Holman, 14 Jan 43. Both in Manson File. (5) 
History 9th Ord Maint Bn, ch. ii, pp. 12-13, and 
app. 8, p. 3. (7) Interv with Holman and Kirsten, 
12 Apr 56. 



86 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



3 January. By 22 January all organized 
Japanese resistance in Papua had ended 
and "the long, heartbreaking campaign 
was done." Fought in the "Green Hell" 
of the jungle that took a heavy toll of men 
and weapons, the campaign had been siege 
warfare — the bitterest, most punishing, and 
most expensive kind. And yet it had been 
"a poor man's war." 57 There were never 
enough men, and the amount of supplies 
that could be brought forward from Aus- 
tralia to Port Moresby and from Port 
Moresby to the front was restricted by the 
scarcity of ships and aircraft. It was also 
pioneer warfare. There had been little ex- 
perience with either Japanese tactics or 
with the Southwest Pacific climate and 
terrain to guide planning. 

The weapons carried by the Americans 
were standard equipment, none of it de- 
signed especially for jungle warfare; the 
jungle kit developed in the summer of 1942 
consisted mainly of Quartermaster items. 
General MacArthur, undoubtedly influ- 
enced by the Japanese use of lightweight 
weapons, had asked the War Department 
in August 1942 for special items to equip 
his troops for jungle warfare in New 
Guinea — light machine guns, small trac- 
tors, folding bicycles, pack horse equip- 
ment, and miscellaneous items. He also 
wanted to use 60-mm. mortars instead of 
105-mm. howitzers in his infantry cannon 
companies and to replace the 105-mm. 
howitzers in his artillery with 81 -mm. mor- 
tars and 75-mm. pack howitzers. The 
War Department made great efforts to 
comply with these requests, but the few 
special items that reached SWPA came too 



late to be used in the Papua Campaign. 58 
Bayonets and jungle knives, desired be- 
fore the campaign, were not employed ex- 
cept for such down-to-earth tasks as open- 
ing ration cans and scraping mud from 
combat boots. In the heavy weapons com- 
panies, the light .30-caliber machine guns 
replaced the more cumbersome heavies, 
and 60-mm. mortars were sometimes sub- 
stituted for the heavier 81 -mm. pieces. 
The few .50-caliber machine guns were 
usually installed in semipermanent mounts 
for antiaircraft defense of airstrips, supply 
dumps, and other installations. 59 In the 
category of hand and shoulder weapons 
perhaps the greatest complaint of the 32d 
Division was the lack of carbines, the light 
.30-caliber weapon developed as a substi- 
tute for the .45-caliber pistol. General 
Harding began asking for them almost as 
soon as his unit reached Australia, but 
large-scale production did not begin until 
the summer of 1942 and the demands of 
other theaters prevented any shipments to 
SWPA in time for use around Buna. 60 

For the infantrymen, the need had been 
not so much for new lightweight weapons 



57 Eichelberger, Our Jungle Road to Tokyo, pp. 
18,51,61. 



68 ( 1 ) Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics 
and Strategy, 1940-1943, pp. 410-1 1. (2) Wal- 
dron, "Ordnance in Jungle Warfare," Army Ord- 
nance, XXVI (May-June, 1944), 520. 

69 32d Div Rpt, Buna, pp. 3, 5, and Annex, 
Data on Armament Taken to and Brought Back 
from New Guinea, Schedule 2. 

90 Ordnance officers differed in their opinions as 
to the value of the carbine. General Holman has 
observed that the carbine was well received when 
it finally did arrive in the Pacific area. Holman 
Comments 1. Brig. Gen. Robert W. Daniels, the 
AGF Ordnance officer from 1942 to 1944, be- 
lieved the Army was oversold on the carbine. The 
Army needed a light, powerful weapon, but in 
General Daniels' opinion the carbine turned out 
to be about as powerful as a pistol and about as 
handy as a rifle. Interv with Brig Gen Robert W. 
Daniels, 5 Jun 63. 



SUPPORTING THE PAPUA CAMPAIGN 



87 



as for greater quantities of certain supplies 
already available, notably cleaning and 
preserving materials. Combat in New 
Guinea and Guadalcanal proved that in 
the main the standard heavy equipment of 
the infantry division was far more effective, 
reliable, and durable than equivalent light- 
weight materiel. Army units fought over 
whatever terrain they encountered without 
noticeable change, using only a few items 
of special equipment. 61 The only special 
Ordnance items developed in the theater 
in 1942 were a light, 2-wheeled, jungle cart 
for carrying ammunition from jeepheads 
forward; a modification kit to convert a 
jeep into a field ambulance in the jungle; 
and a small ship or floating depot to carry 
weapons, parts, and cleaning and preserva- 
tion materials to combat troops at advance 
bases. 62 

Many of the maintenance problems that 
plagued Ordnance officers in this early 
campaign were to recur not only in the 
Pacific but in other parts of the world. 
This was especially true of the motor main- 
tenance problems. Planners in the fall of 
1942 had not yet grasped the magnitude of 
the task of supplying motor vehicles and 
keeping them operating, a task transferred 
from the Quartermaster Corps to the Ord- 
nance Department by Lt. Gen. Brehon B. 
Somervell, commanding general of Army 
Service Forces, at a time when offensives 
were soon to be launched from the base in 
Australia and from the base in the British 
Isles. The transfer was strongly opposed 



91 Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and 
Strategy, 1940-43, p. 41 1. 

62 ( 1 ) Rpt of Ord Activities USASOS SWPA. 
Nov 42, Jan 43. (2) Memo, J. L. H. for G-4, 
23 Sep 42, sub: Status of Development of Items 
for Jungle Warfare, AFWESPAC Ord Sec 381 
Preparations for War, KCRC. (3) Holman Com- 
ments 1. 



by Maj. Gen. Levin H. Campbell, Jr., 
Chief of Ordnance, because he knew that 
there would not be time to train Ordnance 
men to handle this tremendous job. He 
immediately appealed to all automobile 
manufacturers and dealers to supply trained 
men. They did so and, in his opinion, 
saved the day for Ordnance. 63 

The Papua Campaign clearly showed 
that automotive maintenance men as well 
as automotive spare parts would be re- 
quired in greater numbers than had ever 
been anticipated. Another important les- 
son, applicable to all types of supplies, was 
that packaging and methods of handling 
would have to be improved. The cam- 
paign had demonstrated, moreover, the 
danger of sending combat troops forward 
without sufficient support at advance bases. 

Lessons learned in the Papua Campaign 
were too late to be applied to the first 
offensive in the war against Germany, the 
invasion of North Africa in November 
1942. It was on a far grander scale than 
the early Pacific campaigns, and the plan- 
ning factors were different. In the Pacific, 
planning had been conditioned by the 
direction of the Japanese advance and the 
necessity for a far-flung holding operation 
at the same time. In the Atlantic, prepa- 
rations in the spring of 1942 were under- 
taken in the midst of "vast confusion and 
uncertainty" as to when and where to 
attack. 64 



63 Ltr with Incl, Lt Gen Levin H. Campbell, Jr. 
(USA Ret) to Brig Gen Hal C. Pattison, 30 Sep 
63 (hereafter cited as Campbell Comments), 
OCMH. For the arrival in the Middle East in 
November 1942 of the first increment of the four 
field maintenance regiments recruited with the aid 
of the National Automobile Dealers Association, see 
above, p. 22. 

94 Matloff and Snell, Strategic Planning for 
Coalition Warfare: 1941-42, p. 294. 



CHAPTER VI 



The Base in the British Isles 



For six months after the attack on Pearl 
Harbor the military planners in the United 
States were so preoccupied with the war in 
the Pacific that, as General Eisenhower ex- 
pressed it, "the very existence of the Lon- 
don group was all but forgotten." In 
accordance with the prewar decision that 
if the United States entered the war the 
Special Army Observer, London, would 
assume command of the first U.S. Army 
forces sent to the British Isles, General 
Chaney on 8 January 1942 was designated 
Commander, United States Army Forces in 
the British Isles (USAFBI), and members 
of SPOBS, sending home for their uni- 
forms, became an Army headquarters. 1 

The new headquarters was not suffi- 
ciently informed by the War Department 
either of the details of the immediate plans 
made in Washington at the Arcadia Con- 
ference late in December 1941, or, as time 
went on, of the War Department's long- 
range plan for making the British Isles a 



1 ( 1 ) Quote from p. 50 of Crusade in Europe. 
by Dwight D. Eisenhower, copyright 1948 by 
Doubleday & Company, Inc., reprinted by permis- 
sion of the publisher. (2) Matloff and Snell. 
Strategic Planning for Coalition Warfare, 1941- 
42. pp. 42, 111. Unless otherwise noted, this 
chapter is based on Matloff and Snell, also on 
Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, vol. 
I. and Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics and 
Strategy, 1940-43. (3) Cable, USAFBI to AG- 
WAR for WARGH, No. 37, 29 Jan 42, sub: 
Shipment of Officers' Baggage, Admin 388, SPOBS- 
Troops-Cables. 



great operating military base. When Gen- 
eral Eisenhower went to London in mid- 
May 1942, he reported to Washington that 
the USAFBI staff members were "com- 
pletely at a loss in their earnest attempt to 
further the war effort." 2 

In the summer and fall of 1941 the plan- 
ning of Colonel Coffey and other members 
of SPOBS had been founded on the ABC 
reports, which contemplated the bombing 
of Germany as the first U.S. combat effort 
from a United Kingdom base. The War 
Department's Rainbow 5 plan of April 
1 94 1, founded on the ABC-i Report, pro- 
vided that the only ground forces to be sent 
to the United Kingdom immediately after 
a declaration of war would be 44,364 
troops to defend naval and air bases in 
Scotland and Northern Ireland, and a 
"token force" of 7,567 men for the defense 
of the United Kingdom, based in England. 3 

The Arcadia Conference, the first war- 
time meeting of Prime Minister Churchill 
and President Roosevelt, gave the ground 
forces a new mission. President Roosevelt 
agreed to assume at once the responsibility 
for garrisoning Northern Ireland. The 



2 Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, pp. 49-50. 

3 (i) Annex 7 (Ordnance) to Basic Plan for 
Token Force, Folder "Token Force," OPD-GHQ. 
(2) Ltr, Chaney to TAG, 17 Dec 41, sub: Con- 
struction Program for U.S. Forces in the United 
Kingdom, OPD-GHQ (Dr 2), Book one Magnet 
Miscellaneous Data. (3) Ltr, Gen Charles L. Bolte 
(USA Ret) toLidaMayo, 16 Jul 58. 



THE BASE IN THE BRITISH ISLES 



89 



first consideration was to release British 
troops for service in the Middle and Far 
East, the second was to encourage the Brit- 
ish people and to improve relations with 
Ireland, an obvious danger spot should the 
Germans invade England. The U.S. force 
would have to be large. The original plan 
for the Northern Ireland Sub-Theater pro- 
vided for three infantry divisions and one 
armored division, with supporting and 
service troops and air forces, in all about 
158,700 men. The troop movement was 
code-named Magnet. The figures for 
ammunition supply, expressed in units of 
fire (the specified number of rounds to be 
expended per weapon per day in the initial 
stages of an operation), were high: 30 
units of fire for antiaircraft weapons, 
armored units, and antitank units, and 20 
units of fire for all other ground weapons. 
They reflected the anxieties of the time. 4 

The first information the USAFBI 
officers had on Magnet came in a War 
Department cable of 2 January. They 
later learned from Magnet officers that 
the War Department had been working on 
the plans before 20 December 1941 and at 
least one SPOBS officer considered the fail- 
ure to give General Chaney earlier warning 
"hard to explain." None of them saw the 
Magnet plan until 20 February, when 
Brig. Gen. Ira C. Eaker brought a copy to 
London. 5 



4 ( 1 ) Memo, Lt Col F. L. Parks, Secy Gen 
Staff, for Gen and Spec Staffs GHQ, 6 Jan 42, 
sub: Operations Plan, Northern Ireland Sub- 
Theater, OPD, G-3 370.09. (2) G-4 Plan, Folder, 
Draft Annex 8 to Opn Plan Magnet, Ordnance 
Plan, Iceland OPD A2997 (hereafter cited as 
G-4 Plan Magnet). (3) The unit of fire varied 
with the types and calibers of weapons; for ex- 
ample, it was 125 rounds for the 105-mm how- 
itzer and 75 rounds for the 155-mm howitzer. 



The 2 January cable provided a certain 
amount of data for the Ordnance officer of 
USAFBI. The British would furnish anti- 
aircraft protection for the time being, and 
some armament. To save shipping space 
and ease the drain on short supply, the 
Magnet light artillery units would not 
bring their 105-mm. howitzers, but would 
be furnished by the British with com- 
parable 25-pounders. For help in deter- 
mining the necessary adjustments and in- 
structions on the British gun sight, with 
which American troops were unfamiliar. 
General Chaney borrowed from the U.S. 
military attache in London two artillery 
experts, who wrote a field manual and 
maintenance handbook to be studied by 
U.S. artillerymen on the voyage. In Wash- 
ington the Ordnance Department was 
called upon to furnish standard U.S. pano- 
ramic telescopes, graduated in millimeters, 
together with newly designed adapters that 
were necessary to place the telescopes on 
the 25-pounder sight mounts. The British 
would provide ammunition, 1,500 rounds 
per gun, but Ordnance maintenance units 
in Magnet would bring spare parts and 



5 Incl to Memo, Col Homer Case (SPOBS G-2) 
for Hist Div WDSS. 19 Jul 46, and Memo, Maj Gen 
J. E. Chaney for Maj Gen Edwin F. Harding, Chief, 
Historical Div, 23 Jul 46, sub: Comments on the 
Manuscript "The Predecessor Commands" (here- 
after cited as Chancy Comments), Incl in folder 
United States Army in World War II — European 
Theater of Operations — Logistical Support of the 
Army. SPOBS Letters 1946, OCMH. 

6 ( 1 ) Cable, CGFF to Special U.S. Army Ob- 
server in London, England, 2 Jan 42, OPD-GHQ 
G-3 370.5 Troop Movements (Magnet). (2) 
Cable, U.S. Observer in London to Adj Gen, No. 
352, 5 Jan 42, OPD-GHQ G-3 413.68 Range 
Finding and Fire Control Equipment (Northern 
Ireland) (hereafter cited as Magnet 25-Pounder 
file). (3) The Predecessor Commands, SPOBS 
and USAFBI, pp. 1 14-15, MS, OCMH. 



90 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



special repair tools. 7 

At the time General Chaney learned of 
the Magnet force, the first increment of 
troops was estimated at 14,000, but ten 
days later it was reduced to 4,000 in order 
to accelerate troop movements to the Paci- 
fic area. Changes in troop strengths 
caused by strategic as well as logistic con- 
siderations and lack of accurate and timely 
information made planning difficult for 
General Chaney's small staff of only twenty- 
four officers and eighteen enlisted men — a 
headquarters smaller than that allotted to a 
regiment. The Ordnance Section in early 
January consisted of Colonel Coffey and 
2d Lt. John H. Savage, a young tank ex- 
pert who had arrived in London in late 
November on detached service from Aber- 
deen Proving Ground. Most of the staff 
sections had but one officer and one en- 
listed man. Since late fall of 1941, when 
new duties had been assigned to SPOBS, 
General Chaney had been submitting 
urgent requests for more men, including an 
Ordnance officer for aircraft armament, but 
he had not received them. The inability of 
his overworked staff to handle added tasks 
was already creating "an extremely grave 
situation" at the time he learned of the 
Magnet plans. 8 



7 ( 1 ) Ltr, Lt Col Robert W. Daniels, Ord Of- 
ficer GHQ, to CofOrd, 3 Jan 42, sub: Adapters 
for Sight Mounts for British 25 Pounder Field 
Guns; Ltr, 8 Jan 42, sub: British Field Artillery 
Equipment for Force Magnet. Both in Magnet 
25- Pounder file. (2) 1st Ind, CofOrd to Ord Officer 
GHQ, Army War College, 20 Jan 42, O.O. 475/ 
2722. 

8 ( 1 ) The Predecessor Commands, SPOBS and 
USAFBI, p. 85. (2) Office of Technical Informa- 
tion. Office of Theater Chief of Ordnance European 
Theater, Ordnance Diary ETO, 29 May 41 to 14 
Sep 45 (hereafter cited as ETO Diary), MS, 
OHF. (3) Cables, SPOBS to AGWAR, No. 177, 
25 Nov 41; and No. 429, 16 Jan 42. Both in 
Admin 388 SPOBS-Cables-Troops. 



On 7 January 1942 he asked for fifty- 
four officers and more than a hundred en- 
listed men to form a nucleus USAFBI 
headquarters, all to be dispatched at once 
because of Magnet, and all in addition to 
his earlier requests. This number was the 
minimum needed immediately. He esti- 
mated that the theater headquarters detach- 
ment, required eventually to serve the 
United Kingdom, would need 194 officers 
and 377 enlisted men. 9 

The War Department's response to these 
requests was meager indeed. Though a 
USAFBI headquarters force had been or- 
ganized at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in early 
February, the first increment, six officers, 
did not arrive in England until 3 April. 
The second increment, sixteen officers and 
fifty enlisted men, did not come until 9 
May. Brig. Gen. John E. Dahlquist, who 
was Chaney's G— 1, afterward considered 
that the failure of the War Department to 
provide personnel for the USAFBI head- 
quarters was "probably the most significant 
fact about the entire period from Pearl 
Harbor to ETOUSA." To General Chaney, 
the lack of personnel was "one of the vital 
questions in any discussion of USAFBI." 10 

Colonel Coffey fared little better than 
other members of USAFBI. He received 
no additions to his staff from the United 
States until May, when three officers and 
nine enlisted men arrived, part of the Fort 
Dix force. In the meantime he had ob- 
tained two officers in London, one a young 



"Cables, SPOBS to AGWAR, No. 368, 7 Jan 
42; SPOBS to WARGH, No. 12, 17 Jan 42. Both 
in Admin 388 SPOBS-Cables-Troops. 

10 ( 1 ) Memo, Gen Dahlquist for Maj Gen 
Charles L. Bolte, 22 Apr 46, in SPOBS Letters 
1946, OCMH. (2) Incl to Memo, Chaney for 
Harding, Chief, Historical Div, 23 Jul 46, sub: 
Comments on the Manuscript "The Predecessor 
Commands," SPOBS Letters 1946. OCMH. 



THE BASE IN THE BRITISH ISLES 



91 



reservist called to active duty, the other an 
officer from the U.S. Embassy, Lt. Col. 
Frank F. Reed. Colonel Reed could not at 
first give his full time to USAFBI head- 
quarters since he had to continue for sev- 
eral months to gather technical information 
for the military attache, who was also short 
of personnel. The lack of adequate cover- 
age in the Ordnance technical intelligence 
field was a cause of concern to both Reed 
and Coffey. 11 In addition to new respon- 
sibilities, the important work of liaison and 
co-ordination with the British, begun under 
SPOBS, was continued. For example, 
Coffey and Reed spent two days in Feb- 
ruary at the Training Establishment of the 
Royal Army Ordnance Corps studying the 
RAOC, and obtained copies of lectures to 
send back to the United States to be used 
in training Ordnance officers who were 
going to sectors where their functions were 
likely to be controlled by the British. 12 

Ordnance Troops in Magnet 

Close co-ordination with the British was 
essential in Colonel Coffey's plans for 
Magnet, for it was expected that Ameri- 
can troops would use the shops and depots 
near Belfast that were already serving the 
British Troops in Northern Ireland. The 
most important were a base depot and shop 
at Kinnegar, and an ammunition depot on 



11 ( i ) Monograph, Planning and Organization, 
in series of MS volumes, Ordnance Service in the 
European Theater of Operations (hereafter cited 
as Ord Serv ETO), p. 9, OHF. (2) Monograph, 
Personnel and Public Relations, same series, An- 
nex 3, p. 3, OHF. (3) ETO Diary, p. 2, OHF. (4) 
Cable, SPOBS to AGWAR, No. 177, 25 Nov 41, 
in Admin 388, SPOBS-Troops-Cables. 

12 ( 1 ) Mil Attache Rpt, London, No. 46426, 
2 Feb 42, sub: Ordnance Training, OKD 352.11/ 
7(2) Ord Serv ETO, Planning and Organization, 
p. 10. 



a large, stone-walled estate, Shane's Castle, 
at Antrim. 13 

The advance party of the first Magnet 
contingent arrived in London on 20 Jan- 
uary. It consisted of officers of the 34th 
Division, a National Guard unit com- 
manded by Maj. Gen. Russell P. Hartle, 
and included Hartle's divisional Ordnance 
officer, Lt. Col. Grayson C. Woodbury. 
Woodbury was briefed by Colonel Coffey 
and other members of the USAFBI staff in 
two days of conferences before he departed 
for Belfast, wearing, in the interest of securi- 
ty, civilian clothing borrowed from Lon- 
doners. On 24 January an official an- 
nouncement was made of the command, 
which was to be called United States Army 
Northern Ireland Force (USANIF). 14 

The first 4,000 Magnet troops landed in 
Belfast two days later on a murky, chill, 
winter day. They were welcomed with 
flags and bunting, bands, and speeches. 
They were told by the British Air 
Minister that they were entering a combat 
zone, and they were made aware of the 
fact as they went ashore. Above the sound 
of marching feet, the cheers, the strains of 
"The Star Spangled Banner," they heard 
the crump of antiaircraft batteries firing on 
German reconnaissance aircraft. For the 
people of Belfast it was a stirring occasion. 
Some were reminded of the arrival in 



13 ( 1 ) Ltr, Capt W. H. Brucker to CG USAFBI, 
7 May 42, sub: Training Aids and Facilities, 
Northern Ireland, OPD-GHQ G-3, Training Aids 
and Facilities Northern Ireland. (2) The Predeces- 
sor Commands, p. 98, MS, OCMH. 

14 ( 1 ) Ord Serv ETO, Planning and Organiza- 
tion, pp. 90-91. (2) Cable, SPOBS (Chaney) to 
WARGH, No. 29, 23 Jan 42, in Admin 388 
SPOBS-Troops-Cables. (3) Lt Col Leonard 
Webster, A History of United States Army Forces 
in Northern Ireland (USANIF) from January 1, 
1942 to May 31, 1942. MS, in North Ireland- 
Histories. 



92 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Northern Ireland of the American Expedi- 
tionary Forces troops in 1918. 15 

The uniforms of the American troops 
added to the illusion. The men wore the 
old "tin hats" of World War I. New hel- 
mets of the World War II type, an Ord- 
nance item, had been available when 
the men were equipped, but at General 
Chaney's suggestion the War Department 
had provided only the old model 19 17 steel 
helmets because there was a possibility that 
men wearing the new type, which resembled 
the German helmet, might be mistaken for 
enemy troops by Northern Ireland home 
guard night patrols. 10 

The possibility of an enemy invasion, 
probably through neutral Eire, could not 
be discounted. The operations plan for 
Magnet provided a "striking force" to be 
composed of the 36th and 45th Infantry 
Divisions and the 1st Armored Division, 
and a "static," or holding force, composed 
of the 34th Infantry Division, all under V 
Corps. Later the 36th and 45th were 
dropped and the striking force consisted of 
V Corps troops, the 34th Division, and the 
1 st Armored Division, under the operation- 
al control of the commanding general of the 
British Troops in Northern Ireland. 17 



15 (1) Belfast Telegraph, January 27, 1942. (2) 
History 34th Div, ch. VIII. 

16 (1) G-4 Plan Magnet. (2) Cable, Chaney 
to AGWAR, No. 362, 6 Jan 42, sub: Reference 
Magnet, AG 381 (1-6-42) MSC. (3) Ltr, Secy 
War to CG NYPE and QMG, 9 Jan 42, sub: 
Supplies for Shipments 4525, 4558, and 5625, AG 
370.1 (1-9-42) MSC-D-M. (4) 324,000 new type 
helmets had been produced in 1940-41. Procure- 
ment, prepared by Richard H. Crawford and 
Lindsley F. Cook, in Theodore Whiting, The 
United States Army in World War II, Statistics, 
9 Apr 52, p. 47, Draft MS, OCMH. 

17 ( 1 ) Cables, Marshall to SPOBS, No. 488. 
7 Feb 42; Marshall to Chaney, 8 Apr 42; in 
Admin 225. Northern Ireland Base Command (Di- 
rectives), Cables. North Ireland. (2) Cables, Chaney 
to CG USANIF, No. 465, 30 May 42, sub: Relief 



No Ordnance troops arrived with the 
first contingent, for they had been cut out 
by GHQ when the first increment was re- 
duced from 14,000 to 4,000, "a serious mis- 
take," according to the GHQ Ordnance 
officer, Lt. Col. Robert W. Daniels. 18 Al- 
most as soon as the first increment landed, 
the problem of sorting and storing Ord- 
nance supplies led General Chaney to cable 
for a depot detachment. The movement 
orders for the second Magnet contingent 
departing in February gave a high priority 
to the 79th Ordnance Depot Company, but 
the company ran into bad luck when its 
ship, the US AT American Legion, de- 
veloped engine trouble at Halifax and had 
to turn back. 19 The only Ordnance troops 
that came in with the second Magnet con- 
tingent of 7,000 men were those of the 14th 
Medium Maintenance Company, which 
was part of V Corps troops, and a 12-man 
detachment from the 53d Ammunition 
Company. They had to support the entire 
Magnet force, which had now swelled to 
more than 10,000 men, for more than two 
months. 20 

of British Troops in Northern Ireland; Chaney to 
AGWAR, No. 1894, 5 Jun 42, sub: Revision of 
Northern Ireland Sub-Theater Plan; in Admin 388. 
SPOBS-Cables-Troops. 

"Memo, Daniels for Col Paul, G-4 GHQ, 14 
Jan 42, sub: Ordnance Service, First Contingent 
(Magnet), OPD-GHQ G-3 320.2 Organization. 
Units Strength (North Ireland). 

19 ( 1 ) Cable, USAFBI to AGWAR for WARGH, 
No. 55, 31 Jan 42, sub: Second Contingent 
Magnet, Admin 388 SPOBS-Cables-Troops. (2) 
Ltr, CGFF to ACofS WD, 28 Jan 42, sub: Troop 
Movement to Magnet, OPD-GHQ G-3 370.5 
Troop Movements (Magnet). (3) History 34th 
Div, ch. VIII. (4) Cable, Marshall to CG USA- 
FBI, 24 Feb 42, OPD-GHQ (Dr 1) G-3 311.23 
Rads, Outgoing (USAFBI). 

20 (1) Troop List, OPD-GHQ G-3 370.5. 
Troop Movements (Magnet). (2) Cable, USA- 
NIF to USAFBI, No. S 30, sub: Location Troop 
Units — Second Magnet Contingent, Admin 388 
SPOBS-Cables-Troops. 



THE BASE IN THE BRITISH ISLES 



93 



The 79th Ordnance Depot Company and 
another medium maintenance company, 
the 109th, arrived in Northern Ireland less 
than a week before the largest of all the 
Magnet increments came in — the bulk of 
the 1st Armored Division aboard the Queen 
Mary — on 18 May. With the 1st Armored 
Division, Old Ironsides, and additional 
units of the 34th Division and V Corps 
that came in the two May convoys, the 
number of U.S. forces in Northern Ireland 
was more than tripled, rising to 32,202. 
To provide a base should the V Corps be 
assigned a tactical mission, the Northern 
Ireland Base Command (NIBC) was or- 
ganized on 1 June 1942, and all of the 
Ordnance units were assigned to it except 
the 109th Medium Maintenance Company, 
which was assigned to the USANIF (V 
Corps) striking force, and the maintenance 
battalion that was organic to the 1st Ar- 
mored Division. 21 

By 1 June 1942 ammunition depot 
stocks held approximately five units of fire 
of all types except armored division. 
Ordnance organizational equipment was 
approximately 100 percent complete. 
Weapons of the 1st Armored Division were 
being unloaded daily, and by 13 June all 
of the division's tanks had arrived. Stor- 
age facilities were becoming cramped be- 
cause the British had not departed as ex- 
pected, but there was plenty of tentage and 



21 ( 1 ) Memo, CGFF for ACofS G-3 WD, 27 
Feb 42, sub: March Contingent of Forces for 
British Isles. (2) Ltr, Secy War to CG NYPE, 
28 Feb 42, sub: Priority for Shipment of Units 
Overseas. Both in OPD-GHQ G-3 Book Two 
Magnet, Misc. (3) Ltr, Hartle to CG USANIBC 
(Prov), 1 Jun 42, sub: Directive. (4) USANIF Sta- 
tion List. Last two in Admin 224 Northern Ire- 
land. (5) History Northern Ireland Base Com- 
mand (Prov) and Northern Ireland Base Sec- 
tion, 1 Jun 42-20 Dec 42, p. 3, Admin 597 North 
Ireland Base Command Histories. 



every day new Nissen huts were taking up 
more space in the green Irish countryside 
and on the grounds of ancient estates. 22 

Planning for Bolero 

As of 31 May 1942 most of the U.S. 
Army ground forces in the British Isles were 
in Northern Ireland: 30,458 out of a total 
of 33,106 enlisted men in the British Isles 
were in USANIF, as were 1,744 out °f a 
total of 2,562 officers. 23 However, planning 
was already under way in Washington for a 
mammoth build-up in England. In April 
General Marshall had gone to London and 
obtained the consent of the British Prime 
Minister and Chiefs of Staff for a major 
offensive in Europe in 1943 or for an emer- 
gency landing, if necessary, in 1942. The 
former bore the code name Roundup, the 
latter was called Sledgehammer, and the 
detailed, long-range planning by the Wash- 
ington staffs for the concentration of Amer- 
ican forces in the British Isles was called 
Bolero. Until then, Washington planners 
had been "thrashing around in the dark," 
as General Eisenhower put it, and plans 
for the British Isles had gone no further 
than the garrisoning of Northern Ireland 
and the establishing of air bases in England 
for the bombardment of Germany. Now 
the United Kingdom was to be the main 
war theater. Bolero provided for the ar- 
rival of a million U.S. troops in the United 
Kingdom by 1 April 1943. 

When Marshall returned to the United 
States from London he told Eisenhower 
that General Chanev and other American 



22 G-4 Reports, USAFBI, 1 May-31 May 42, 
AG 3 1 9. 1 Periodic Rpts, Admin 323 SPOBS. 

23 Cable, Chaney to AGWAR, No. 1898, 5 Jun 
42, sub: Strength Report, Admin 389, SPOBS- 
Air Force. 



94 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



officers on duty in London "seemed to 
know nothing about the maturing plans 
that visualized the British Isles as the great- 
est operating military base of all time." 
Marshall sent Eisenhower to London to 
outline plans and to bring back recommen- 
dations on the future organization and de- 
velopment of U.S. forces in Europe. After 
an interview with Chaney, Eisenhower con- 
cluded that Chaney and his small staff 
"had been given no opportunity to familiar- 
ize themselves with the revolutionary 
changes that had since taken place in the 
United States . . . They were definitely in a 
back eddy, from which they could scarcely 
emerge except through a return to the 
United States." 2i 

It might also be said that in Washington 
there was widespread ignorance, even at 
upper levels, as to the true nature of Gen- 
eral Chaney's mission in London. General 
Eisenhower referred to him as a "military 
observer," 25 and General Eisenhower's 
naval aide, Capt. Harry C. Butcher, re- 
ferred to the work of the Special Observer 
as "essentially a reporting job," rather than 
"an action responsibility." 20 Brig. Gen. 
Charles L. Bolte, Chaney's chief of staff, 
said later that he actually grew to hate the 
name Special Observer Group, and added, 
"I do not think that too much emphasis 
can be laid on the fact that many of the 
difficulties . . . arose from the misconception 
that SPOBS was an information-gathering 
agency, whereas it was really designed as 
the nucleus for the headquarters of an 
operational force which might or would 



materialize if the United States entered 
the war." 27 

Ordnance planning for Bolero was soon 
to be taken over by an organization other 
than Colonel Coffey's staff. General Mar- 
shall and General Somervell had decided 
to establish in England a Services of Sup- 
ply organization paralleling that in the 
United States. The officer selected to com- 
mand it, Maj. Gen. John C. H. Lee, was 
not given as much power as he wished, but 
following a long controversy between SOS 
and USAFBI, complicated by cloudy di- 
rectives from the United States, he was 
given the main job of building up stocks of 
munitions in the British Isles. He selected 
as his Ordnance officer Col. Everett S. 
Hughes, who had held for two years the 
very important job of chief of the Equip- 
ment Division, Field Service, in Washing- 
ton. Hughes arrived in London by air on 
8 June with his procurement officer, Col. 
Gerson K. Heiss, and opened the Ordnance 
Section at SOS headquarters, i Great 
Cumberland Place. His chief of General 
Supply, Col. Henry B. Sayler, his mainte- 
nance officer, Col. Elbert L. Ford, and his 
chief of Ammunition Supply, Col. Albert S. 
Rice, arrived from the United States later 
in the month. 28 

When the European Theater of Opera- 
tions, United States Army (ETOUSA), 
was established on 8 June 1942, Colonel 
Hughes as senior Ordnance officer in the 
theater became the Chief Ordnance Of- 



21 Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, pp. 49-50. 

20 Ibid., p. 49. 

28 Capt. Harry C. Butcher, My Three Years 
With Eisenhower (New York: Simon and Schus- 
ter, 1946), p. 6. 



27 Interv with Maj Gen Charles L. Bolte, 4 
Oct 45, quoted in The Predecessor Commands, p. 
262. 

28 ( i ) For the controversy over Lee's authority 
see Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, 
vol. I, pp. 31-44. (2) For the SOS Ordnance 
staff see Historical Monograph n 7.1, Key Ord- 
nance Military Personnel, pp. 47, 82-83, 146, 
OHF. 



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96 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



ficer, ETOUSA. (Chart 2) After the estab- 
lishment of SOS, the Ordnance Section at 
Headquarters, ETOUSA, was concerned 
only with planning, technical advice, and 
liaison, and as Colonel Hughes was mainly 
occupied with the far greater responsibility 
at SOS, he appointed Colonel Coffey his 
special representative at ETOUSA head- 
quarters. Most of Coffey's staff went over 
to the Ordnance Section of SOS. The two 
headquarters were soon to be separated by 
about ninety miles. General Lee had early 
in June decided to move SOS to Chelten- 
ham, where the British could offer two 
extensive blocks of buildings, built to ac- 
commodate the War Office in the event 
London had to be evacuated. The addi- 
tions to the Ordnance SOS staff that came 
from the United States in mid-July went 
direct to Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. 

General Chaney served as theater com- 
mander less than two weeks and General 
Eisenhower succeeded him on 24 June. In 
the following month an important change 
occurred in the Ordnance organization. 
Colonel Hughes departed for the United 
States on 10 July, returning to England 
after a few weeks to become General Lee's 
chief of staff. His successor at SOS was 
Col. Henry B. Sayler. Eisenhower's Gen- 
eral Order 19 of 20 July 1942 made Colonel 
Sayler also the Chief Ordnance Officer, 
ETOUSA. 29 

Storage for Weapons and 
Ammunition 

The first concern of Ordnance Service, 
SOS, was the storage of weapons and other 
general supplies, since it had been decided 



that for the time being ammunition would 
be shipped to British depots. The depot 
system established by General Lee's staff 
provided two types of depots — general 
depots that stored supplies of more than 
one technical service, and branch depots 
for each service. General depots were 
mainly for receiving large shipments from 
the United States, storing them in their 
original packages, and shipping them in 
bulk to the technical branch depots for 
issuance to troops. This was not a hard 
and fast rule; some general depots issued 
direct to troops. Branch depots received 
materiel not only from general depots but 
also from the zone of interior and from 
local procurement, and sometimes they 
served as bulk depots. An important plan- 
ning consideration was the fact that exist- 
ing British installations would have to be 
used because there was little prospect for 
new construction before 1 January 1943. 30 
The first Ordnance general supplies to 
arrive and the only Ordnance SOS depot 
company that landed in England that sum- 
mer went to Ashchurch, eight miles from 
Cheltenham, the largest and most modern 
of the five U.S. general depots activated 
on 11 July 1942. Recently built for the 
British Royal Army Service Corps as a 
depot for automotive supply and mainte- 
nance, it was situated in fertile Evesham 
Valley at the foot of the Cotswold Hills, 
fifty-one miles from the Bristol channel 
ports, through which most of the American 
supplies were expected to flow. Ten large 
hangar-type warehouses and five smaller 
ones provided a total closed storage space of 
1,747,998 square feet, of which Ordnance 
was assigned 378,200, an area second only 



20 Maj J. G. Detwiler, Historical Record of the 
Ordnance Section, 2 Sep 42, Ord Serv ETO, 
Planning and Organization, Annex 45. 



30 Ord Serv ETO, Ordnance Class II and IV 
Supply, pp. 51-56, and Annex 5. 



THE BASE IN THE BRITISH ISLES 



97 




Ammunition Stored in Hutments by an English Roadside 



to the 1,014,200 square feet allotted to 
Quartermaster's Motor Transport Service. 
The major warehouses were of brick, with 
gabled roofs and overhead roller suspension 
doors. They were connected by macadam 
roads that were lined with fences painted 
with yellow and black stripes for better 
visibility during blackouts. Mists settling 
over the valley aided camouflage but gave 
the whole installation a tone that was 
"peculiarly sombre." 31 



31 ( 1 ) History of G-25 . . . Ashchurch, Eng- 
land, 11 July 1942-6 June 1944 (hereafter cited 
as History G-25), PP- 2 ~6, Admin 512. (2) 
History 80th Ord Base Depot Co, 14 Jul 42-31 
Dec 43. (3) Col N. B. Chenault, Jr., History 
General Supply Division, Annex to ETO Ord 
Serv, Class II and IV Supply (hereafter cited as 
Chenault History), OHF. (4) Memo, ACofS G-4 
for Chief of QM Serv et al., 1 Sep 42, and incls, 
ETO 319.1 Rpts, vol. I, 1942-43, KCRC. 



A decision on the site of the first Ord- 
nance branch depot in England was made 
early in the summer. On 1 June Lt. Col. 
David J. Crawford, who had arrived from 
the United States late in May to recon- 
noiter for shop and storage space, reported 
favorably on Tidworth, in southern Eng- 
land, the region from which the British 
had agreed to withdraw their own troops 
in order to make way for the Americans. 
Tidworth was at the southeastern edge of 
Salisbury Plain, the great chalk downs that 
served as the main peacetime maneuver 
area of the British Army. Site of a former 
British tank and artillery shop, Tidworth 
had a depot with 133,000 square feet of 
shop space and 50,000 feet of storage space 
in two buildings. There were good rail 
and highway connections and a consider- 



98 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



able amount of open shed and garage 
space. On 22 July Tidworth Ordnance 
Depot, designated O-640, was activated. 
Until September, when the 45th Ordnance 
Medium Maintenance Company arrived, it 
was operated entirely by British civilians. 32 
The Salisbury Plain area also contained 
two of the three British ammunition sup- 
ply dumps (ASD's) first used for ammuni- 
tion shipments from the United States — 
Savernake Forest and Marston Magna. 
The Third, Cinderford, was in the Forest 
of Dean near the Bristol ports. The British 
ASD's were simply areas containing ade- 
quate road nets and enough villages to 
provide railheads. Since the English 
countryside was too thickly settled to per- 
mit depots in the American or Australian 
sense, the British had stacked ammunition 
along the sides of roads. If the roads ran 
through an ancient forest or park with tall 
trees to hide the stacks from enemy bom- 
bers, so much the better; in any case road- 
side storage made the ammunition easily 
accessible, an important consideration at a 
time when fear of German invasion was 
always present. Each stack of artillery and 
small arms ammunition was covered by a 
portable corrugated iron shelter, or hut- 
ment, that was usually camouflaged by 
leaves poured over a wet asphalt coating. 
Bombs were stored in the open at Royal 
Air Force (RAF) depots. 33 



32 ( 1 ) Memo, Col E. L. Ford for Chief Ord 
Officer SOS for G-4 SOS, 23 Jul 42, sub: Ord- 
nance Maintenance Facilities, ETO 400.242 Equip- 
ment—Storage, KCRC. (2) Hq SOS ETO, GO 
1 1, 22 Jul 42, Admin 315, Southern Base Section — 
General. (3) Station List, 4 Sep 42, p. 21, in 
ETO 319-1 Rpts, vol.1, 1 942-43, KCRC. 

33 Memo, Lt Col Neil H. McKay, Ammunition 
Supply Br, Field Serv, for Chief of Field Serv, 
5 Apr 43, sub- Report on Ammunition Supply in 
ETO (hereafter cited as McKay Rpt, 5 Apr 43). 



The first U.S. ammunition depots were 
activated on 2 August 1942 at Savernake 
Forest (O-675), capacity 40,000 tons, and 
Marston Magna (O-680), 5,000 tons. At 
both, troops were to be billeted in whatever 
buildings were available — the Marquess of 
Aylesbury's stables, farmhouses, a cider mill, 
and Nissen huts. But for some time to 
come, all U.S. ammunition depots had to be 
operated mainly by British RAOC troops. 
When large shipments of ammunition be- 
gan to arrive in late August, more depots 
were needed. A site surveyed by the British 
but not yet used was found in the Cots- 
wolds, northeast of Cheltenham. Activated 
as Kingham (O-670) on 11 September, 
this depot became by early 1943 the larg- 
est U.S. ammunition depot in England. 
On the same day that Kingham was acti- 
vated, a fourth depot, O-660, was acti- 
vated at the British ASD at Cinderford and 
soon became the second largest U.S. am- 
munition depot. The sites for these four 
depots were selected with ground force 
ammunition in mind. For air ammunition, 
three main depots of about 20,000 tons 
capacity each were required in the first 
Bolero plan. Two were established in the 
Midlands, near Leicester and air bases — 
Melton Mowbray (O-690) and Wortley 
(O-695), both activated 30 September. 
The third was Grovely Wood (O-685) in 
southern England, activated 2 September. 
In the meantime, SOS began to store 
bombs and other air ammunition at Saver- 
nake, Cinderford, Kingham, and Marston 
Magna, which then became composite, 
rather than ground force, depots. 34 



34 (1) SOS ETO, GO's No. 15, 2 Aug 42, and 
No. 31, 11 Sep 42, General Orders SOS ETO 
1942, in ETO Admin 315 Southern Base Sec — 
General. (2) Depot histories in sec. VII, History 
Ordnance Service SOS ETO, ETO Ord Sec, 



THE BASE IN THE BRITISH ISLES 



99 



Motor Vehicles 

The assignment to Ordnance of respon- 
sibility for motor vehicles on 25 July 1942, 
effective 1 September, enormously increased 
the work of the General Supply Division. 
At the time it was hard for Ordnance of- 
ficers in the European Theater of Opera- 
tions to grasp the magnitude of the new 
job; compared to weapons, combat vehi- 
cles, and fire control instruments, soon to be 
referred to as "old Ordnance," the very 
much simpler mechanism of trucks did not 
at first seem to present much of a problem, 
especially since Ordnance men were al- 
ready familiar with parts and maintenance 
considerations on combat vehicles. Later 
these officers learned that while general 
purpose vehicles involved comparatively 
simple technical problems, the great num- 
ber of trucks as compared with the number 
of tanks and Ordnance special vehicles and 
the incomparably rougher usage automotive 
equipment received placed a very heavy 
drain on manpower. In terms of man- 
hours, automotive equipment was eventual- 
ly estimated to constitute approximately 80 
percent of the whole Ordnance job in the 
ETO. 35 

Most of the motor vehicles that had been 
coming in since late spring had been 
shipped partly disassembled and crated in 
order to save shipping space and had been 

K.CRC. (3) Ammunition Supply Division History 
Pre-D-day, in History Ord Service SOS ETO. 
(4) British Paper, Southern Command Q(L), 
Paper 4, Storage Space, 28 Jun 42, ETO 400.242 
(Storage Space), KCRC. (5) McKay Rpt, 5 
Apr 43. 

35 ( 1 ) Interv with Brig Gen Urban Niblo by Lida 
Mayo, 28 Sep 55. (2) Interv with Maj Gen Henry 
B. Sayler by C. Bradford Mitchell, 26 Sep 49, 
Mitchell Notes, OHF. (3) Chenault History. (4) 
Ord Memo 9, 1 Sep 42, Annex 29 to Ord Serv 
ETO, Planning and Organization, p. 3. 



turned over to the British Ministry of Sup- 
ply for assembly because the theater had 
no American assembly plants and mechan- 
ics to do the work. Two methods of crat- 
ing were used. The simplest was that 
which kept each vehicle in its own crate, 
with the wheels removed. These were 
called "boxed" vehicles. The crates could 
be easily stacked and bolted together, as 
uncrated wheeled vehicles could not. The 
second method required much more as- 
sembly work. It involved two kinds of 
packing, either one vehicle in one or two 
boxes, known as the single unit pack 
(SUP), or two vehicles in from one to five 
boxes (most commonly, one crate contain- 
ing two chassis, the second two cabs, the 
third, axles), known as the twin unit pack 
(TUP). The SUP and TUP types were 
called "cased" vehicles. 

The TUP method, which saved about 
two-thirds of the space required for an 
uncrated vehicle, was far more economical 
in space than the SUP method and came to 
be preferred, especially for the %-ton, 1 1 / 2 - 
ton, and 2/2 -ton types. However, the 
TUP method of crating contributed to 
early confusion on how many vehicles there 
were in the theater, of what types, and 
where they were located. Often all three 
crates did not come on the same ship: one 
vessel would carry the cabs and chassis and 
another would carry the axles; and the 
two ships might dock at different ports. 
Sometimes the crates were not marked and 
had to be sent to an assembly plant and 
opened before their contents could be de- 
termined. Then they would have to be 
rerouted to the assembly plant designated 
to handle the particular type of vehicle. 36 



36 ( 1 ) Production Service Division, Industrial 
Service, OCO, ASF, Packaging, Development of 
in the Ordnance Department, 1941-1945, Project 



100 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



The vehicles were assembled in British 
civilian plants under the direction of the 
British Ministry of Supply, an arrangement 
that had been made when vehicles were a 
Quartermaster responsibility. The code 
name for the assembly work was Tilefer. 
By ii July 1942 the Ministry's Tilefer 
organization had two assembly plants in 
the Liverpool area, the Ford Motor Com- 
pany at Wigan and Pearson's Garage in 
Liverpool, and plans for others were under 
way. After cased and boxed vehicles were 
assembled and the few wheeled vehicles 
that arrived (only about 20 percent of the 
total) were reconditioned, the British drove 
them to large parking lots, which they 
called vehicle parks, to form pools from 
which troops could be supplied. Two of 
these parks, Aintree Racecourse and Belle- 
vue, were near Liverpool. A third was at 
Ashchurch (G-25). 37 

Ashchurch suddenly became important 
to Ordnance planners when they learned 
that motor vehicles were to be added to 
other Ordnance responsibilities. Quarter- 
master's Motor Transport Service had 
planned to make Ashchurch a primary 
overseas motor base, operated by three 
regiments — a depot regiment, a supply and 
evacuation regiment, and a base shop regi- 
ment. The first unit of this large organiza- 
tion, which had been recruited from auto- 
mobile plants, steel mills, and machine 
shops in the United States, arrived on 19 
August, but since its equipment did not 



Supporting Paper No. 58, pp. 126-27, OHF. (2) 
Rpt, Sayler to CofOrd, 9 Nov 42, sub: Special 
Report on Ordnance General Supplies (hereafter 
cited as Sayler Rpt), and Incl No. 4. Both in Ord 
Serv ETO, Class II and IV Supply, Annex 5, 
OHF. (3) Chenault History. 

37 ( 1 ) Ord Serv ETO, Planning and Organiza- 
tion, p. 45. (2) Ord Serv ETO, Class II and IV 
Supply, pp. 70, 125, 140. 



arrive until December, the men were as- 
signed various duties, the most important 
of which was operation of the vehicle park. 
A tire repair company, the first of its type 
to be organized, also arrived at Ashchurch 
during August without equipment. It was 
given the job of operating the three gas 
stations and grease racks. 38 

The vehicle parks already in existence at 
Ashchurch and in the Liverpool area were 
adequate in the early summer. Few vehi- 
cles were coming into the ports, and those 
that did arrive were likely to be held up in 
assembly plants that were not yet in full 
operation. Only 526 general purpose vehi- 
cles were assembled by the British in July. 
Yet more vehicle parks would soon be 
needed. General Eisenhower had informed 
General Lee that the War Department was 
contemplating shipping approximately 
160,000 knocked-down vehicles in the early 
fall. 39 While this figure was overoptimistic, 
the rate of arrival and assembly did rise 
sharply in late August and early September. 
By the end of 1942 the Ministry of Supply 
had assembled a total of 33,362 vehicles. 
Twelve vehicle parks with a total of 23,000 
vehicles had been activated: in the Liver- 
pool, Bristol, and Glasgow port areas as 
near Tilefer assembly plants as possible; in 
the east of England near air installations; 
and in the south of England where ground 
troops were concentrated. They were lo- 
cated on estates, on race tracks, and on 
other open areas that had enough space 
and adequate camouflage. Little or no 
construction was possible at any of the sites 



38 Hist of G-25, pp. 59-61, 66-67. (2) Ord Serv 
ETO, Planning and Organization, Annex 2, His- 
torical Record of Ord Sec Hq SOS (hereafter cited 
as Hist Ord Sec SOS), OHF. 

30 Ltr, Et Gen Dwight D. Eisenhower to CG 
SOS et al., 13 Jul 42, sub: Assignment of Motor 
Vehicles, Admin 236 Ord— Motor Vehicles. 



THE BASE IN THE BRITISH ISLES 



101 



because neither the Engineer Corps nor 
local labor was available and for some time 
operations would depend almost solely on 
British personnel, military and civilian. 40 

The officers to command the vehicle 
parks were six men of Motor Transport 
Service's Tilefer Section, who were trans- 
ferred to Ordnance on i September when 
a total of 14 motor transport officers and 27 
enlisted men came into the Ordnance 
Service, SOS. These six men, particularly 
those who had been trained in the TUP 
program, were considered by the Ordnance 
Section to be some of the best officers in 
the theater. But they were few in number 
— three officers commanded two vehicle 
parks each. Four of the parks were for 
some time to come commanded by British 
officers. 41 Besides the Quartermaster motor 
base and tire repair companies at Ash- 
church, Ordnance received eleven Quar- 
termaster companies and the large motor 
transport depot at Rushden, Northampton- 
shire, serving air installations. Rushden 
was designated O-646, becoming, with Ash- 
church and Tidworth, one of the three 
primary Ordnance installations. 42 

At the time Ordnance received respon- 
sibility for motor vehicles in the theater, 
the shortage of commissioned officers, which 
had been a problem since SPOBS, was be- 



40 (1) Ord Serv ETO, Class II and IV Supply, 
pp. 65, 125-26. (2) Sayler Rpt and Incl 4 (map). 
(3) Chenault History, p. 7. (4) Hist Div USFET, 
The Administrative and Logistical History of the 
ETO, 1946, pt. Ill, pp. 261-62, MS, OCMH. 

41 (1) Hist Ord Sec SOS. (2) Ord Serv ETO, 
Class II and IV Supply, p. 65. (3) Ltr, Col S. L. 
A. Marshall to Chief Ord Officer, USFET, 13 
Jul 45, sub: Request for Historical Data Relat- 
ing to Ordnance General Purpose Vehicles and 
Incl, Admin 563 Ord-Histories. 

42 ( 1 ) Hq SOS ETOUSA, GO No. 36 and No. 
52, 16 Sep and 9 Oct 42, Admin 315 Southern 
Base Sec — General. (2) History G-25, p. 33. 



coming acute. Ordnance officers were 
needed not only at depots, shops, and 
schools in the United Kingdom but also at 
ports and at three of the four base sections 
that were just being established: the North- 
ern Ireland Base Section, which took over 
from the Northern Ireland Base Command; 
the Western Base Section, which included 
the ports of Glasgow and Liverpool; and 
the Southern Base Section, the concentra- 
tion point for ground forces units in south- 
ern England. The Eastern Base Section, 
mainly concerned with services to the air 
forces, had no Ordnance section for some 
time. 43 

Preparations for Torch 

While base sections, depots, and shops 
were passing from the planning to the oper- 
ating stage, with their efforts directed to- 
ward Bolero, decisions were being made 
in London and Washington that were sud- 
denly to change the direction of the effort 
and to accelerate tremendously the pace of 
the operations. By 25 July pressure on the 
Allied Powers to establish a second front 
before the spring of 1943 — the date set for 
Bolero — had led to an agreement by the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff to undertake an 
invasion of North Africa in 1942, an opera- 
tion to be known as Torch. 

Weeks of discussion followed on where 
and when the landings would take place. 
By 5 September the decision was reached 
to make three simultaneous landings: one 
at Casablanca by a Western Task Force, 
mounted and shipped from the United 
States; another at Oran by a Center Task 



43 (1) Hist Ord Sec SOS. (2) Admin and Log 
History of ETO, pt. II, vol. I, pp. 109-12, 1 13— 
14. (3) Ord Serv ETO, Planning and Organiza- 
tion, pp. 106-07, 135-36. 



102 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Force, predominantly II Corps; and a 
third at Algiers, by an Eastern Task Force, 
mainly British. Center and Eastern Task 
Forces were to be mounted from the British 
Isles. The target date was unsettled for 
some time, varying from mid-October to 
early November. By the time the tactical 
plans were firm enough to furnish a definite 
troop basis, there were only about two 
months to plan, organize, collect supplies, 
process troops, train for amphibious land- 
ings, and embark. 44 

General Eisenhower was made com- 
mander in chief of the expedition. At 
Allied Force Headquarters (AFHQ), 
which was in charge of both logistical and 
operational plans, a British officer, Maj. 
Gen. Humfrey M. Gale, was to control 
logistical planning. His deputy, Colonel 
Hughes, became responsible for the U.S. 
supply program for Torch in the British 
Isles. Colonel Ford, Sayler's maintenance 
officer, became Ordnance officer of AFHQ 
and took with him several members of the 
SOS staff, including his assistant, Colonel 
Crawford. Headquarters, ETOUSA, lost 
a valuable officer to the Mediterranean 
operation when Colonel Coffey left for the 
United States to help prepare Western 
Task Force. Center Task Force Ordnance 
planning was in the hands of Col. Urban 
Niblo, who had arrived in England that 
summer as Ordnance officer of II Corps, 
then commanded by Maj. Gen. Mark W. 
Clark. Later, Clark became Eisenhower's 
deputy and relinquished command to Maj. 
Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall (II Corps' old 



commander), who joined the planning 
group on 10 October. 45 

Planning began in London in August in 
an atmosphere of great secrecy. The staff 
was literally locked up in Norfolk House; 
officers could leave the building, but en- 
listed men, both British and American, 
were confined to the building until the 
landing was made. The chiefs of technical 
services received little or no information on 
the size of the force or the location of the 
operation. Strenuous efforts were made 
to maintain security and mislead the enemy. 
For example, the British in attempting to 
indicate that the first convoys were going 
to India ordered typhus and cholera vac- 
cine, which British forces used only in 
India, and made a point of losing one or 
two of the vaccine shipments so that the 
losses were known. The effort to confine 
knowledge of the "Special Operation" to 
as few persons as possible also had unde- 
sirable effects. It deprived Ordnance 
planners of staff help that they needed. 
Lacking staff men to check their requisi- 
tions back to the zone of interior, Colonel 
Hughes and Colonel Niblo inadvertently 
requisitioned ammunition for the old 
French gun of World War I, the 155-mm. 
GPF, instead of the 155-mm. Mi with 
which II Corps was equipped. As a result, 
the 155-mm. Mi guns had to be left be- 
hind in England and could not be used in 



" For a detailed account of the effect of in- 
decision on logistical planning, see Coakley and 
Leighton, Global Logistics and Strategy, 1943-45, 
ch. XVI, "The Descent on North Africa." 



45 ( 1 ) Intervs with Col Russell R. Klanderman. 
7 Dec 55, and Gen Niblo, 28 Sep 55. (2) Memo, 
Chief Ord Officer AFHQ for CofOrd, 6 Jan 43, 
sub: Historical Record of Ordnance Section 
AFHQ, Incl, Historical Record (hereafter cited as 
AFHQ Hist Ord Sec), O.O. 350.05/2260. (3) 
George F. Howe, Northwest Africa: Seizing the 
Initiative in the West, UNITED STATES ARMY 
IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, D.C., 1957), 
pp. 46-47- 



THE BASE IN THE BRITISH ISLES 



103 



the initial phases of the North African 
campaign. 40 

In the Center Task Force and the small 
U.S. contribution to Eastern Task Force 
there would be 80,820 American troops, 
including the 1st Infantry Division, then in 
southern England, and the 34th Infantry 
and 1st Armored Divisions, in Northern 
Ireland. The job of equipping this force 
fell to SOS headquarters at Cheltenham. 
The base sections were as yet hardly more 
than skeleton organizations. No accurate 
figures on supplies existed, for there had not 
been time to catalogue the mountains of 
equipment that had been dumped in the 
British ports during the summer. It was 
known, however, that some Ordnance 
items such as spare parts for tanks and some 
calibers of ammunition were not available. 
And it was probable that there were not 
enough spare parts for motor vehicles. 
Nobody knew how many trucks were in 
England. 47 

On 8 September General Eisenhower 
sent the War Department a requisition for 
344,000 ship tons of material for the North 
African operation, most of it to be shipped 
to the United Kingdom by 20 October. In 
Washington General Lutes of SOS, who 
had visited England in the late spring and 
had been concerned about the lack of U.S. 
service troops there to receive, sort, and 
identify U.S. material, believed that most 
of the II Corps equipment was already in 



<6 (0 Col. A. T. McNamara, QMC, "The 
Mounting of 'Torch' from England," Quarter- 
master Review, XXVII (July-August, 1947), pp. 
12-13. (2) Niblo Interv, 28 Sep 55. 

47 ( 1 ) Howe, Northwest Africa, p. 679. (2) 
Healey Memoir, p. 28, ETO Adm 510. (3) But- 
cher, My Three Years With Eisenhower, pp. 87, 
88 (notes for 5 and 6 Sep 42). (4) Chenault 
History. 



the United Kingdom, but was scattered 
throughout England and unidentified. Dis- 
mayed at the prospect of having to dupli- 
cate shipments that he was convinced had 
already been made, he urged the SOS staff 
in the ETO to "swarm on the British ports 
and depots and find out where these people 
have put our supplies and equipment." 48 
While undoubtedly some Ordnance 
items had been "lost" because of misrout- 
ing or improper marking, it is unlikely that 
Ordnance materiel in sufficient quantity 
would have been uncovered even if there 
had been enough trained depot men to 
"swarm" efficiently. The Ordnance SOS 
staff believed that there were not enough 
Class II and IV supplies in the United 
Kingdom to support the first phase of 
Torch. Most of the Bolero cargo shipped 
to England in July and August of 1942 
consisted of Quartermaster items (includ- 
ing boxed vehicles) and construction equip- 
ment and special vehicles for the large con- 
tingent of Engineer troops sent to build 
airfields, camps, and depots. There was 
also a considerable backlog of Army Air 
Forces materiel for units shipped early in 
June. Requisitions forwarded to the New 
York Port of Embarkation by the SOS Ord- 
nance Service in July to build up the level 
of supply had been canceled in view of the 
current task force movements; the only 
Ordnance Class II and IV material arriv- 
ing in the summer consisted of automatic 
shipments of 180 days of maintenance sup- 
ply, based on the addendum and the num- 
ber of major items shipped to the ETO 
with the earlv units. Until the 1st Infan- 



48 Lt. Gen. Leroy Lutes, "Supply: World War II. 
The Flight to Europe in 1942," Antiaircraft Jour- 
nal, vol. 95 (May-June, 1952), pp. 8-10. 



104 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



try Division arrived early in August, there 
had been no ground combat forces in Eng- 
land. The division's weapons were not 
preshipped; at the time, vehicles were the 
only item of organizational equipment pre- 
shipped in sizable numbers. 49 

When the call came to support Torch, 
the i st Division had not received any of 
its field artillery and had only fractional 
allowances of machine guns and special 
vehicles. The fault lay in the system of 
.sending men on transports and their or- 
ganizational equipment on cargo ships, 
sometimes in different convoys, sometimes 
arriving at different ports. The problem 
of marrying units with equipment was not 
a simple one at best, as the experience in 
Australia had shown. In the case of 
Torch, where time was all-important, the 
situation bordered on chaos. Two ships 
that had set out from the United States 
with 105-mm. howitzers for the 1st Divi- 
sion had failed to arrive; one went aground 
in Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia, and the 
second, sent to replace the first, had to put 
in at Bermuda because of shifting cargo. 
On 1 2 September General Clark told Colo- 
nel Hughes that something would have to 
be done quickly or "those men will be going 
in virtually with their bare hands." Of the 
ground forces in Northern Ireland, the 34th 
Infantry Division had only old-style how- 
itzers and lacked antiaircraft equipment 
and tanks; the 1st Armored had only the 
old model Grant M3 tanks. 50 

Even if there had been enough guns, it 
was doubtful whether enough ammunition 



had been provided. At the end of August 
only 2 1 ,040 long tons of ground force am- 
munition were in the theater and on 14 
September Colonel Hughes was forced to 
admit that he had no assurance of an ade- 
quate ammunition supply for Torch. A 
very large proportion of the early ammuni- 
tion shipments had been bombs. A great 
deal of the artillery ammunition had ar- 
rived so damaged, because of poor packing, 
stowing, and handling at shipside, that it 
was unserviceable ; moreover, in the ammu- 
nition depots the manpower problem was as 
acute as it was in the general supply depots. 
Only two ammunition companies arrived in 
August, the 58th and 66th. Both stationed 
at Savernake, they were undermanned be- 
cause they had to furnish detachments for 
other depots. In addition, their men had 
not been sufficiently instructed in renova- 
tion, roadside storage, and operating at 
night under blackout conditions. Between 
12 September and 20 October a few Quar- 
termaster motor transport men and about 
2,500 Engineers were assigned to help, but 
without the trained RAOC men, issue and 
supply would have been almost impossible. 51 
In attempting to fill the huge requisition 
of 8 September and subsequent ones, the 
SOS staff in the zone of interior was ham- 
pered not only by lack of ships but by the 
need to supply the very large Western Task 
Force then being mounted from the United 



49 (1) Sayler Rpt. (2) Chenault History. 

60 ( 1 ) Healey Memoir, p. 30; (2) Butcher, My 
Three Years With Eisenhower, p. m; (3) Clark, 
Calculated Risk, pp. 34, 55. 



51 ( 1 ) Ord Serv ETO, Ammunition Supply, p. 
13. (2) McKay Rpts, 5 Apr 43, 19 Oct 42, ETO 
3 1 9. 1, Spec Rpts Ord, KCRC. (3) SOS GO No. 
32, 12 Sep 42, No. 49, 4 Oct 42, No. 56, 20 Oct 
42. All in Admin 315 Southern Base Sec General. 
(4) Ltr, Lt Col S. A. Daniel, Chief Ammunition 
Supply Div Ord Sec SOS, to Lt Col G. W. 
Powell, OCO, 2 Jan 43, sub: Ordnance Service 
in U.K., O.O. 350.05/2253. 



THE BASE IN THE BRITISH ISLES 



105 







i^jg 



Trailer Supply Unit in England 



States. Working night and day in the 
effort to fill General Eisenhower's needs, 
SOS USA was able to send 131,000 ship 
tons of equipment to England and to add 
eight fully loaded cargo ships to the con- 
voys by the time they sailed for North 
Africa late in October. It was 1 October 
before the first of the freighters sailed. In 
the meantime, the Ordnance Section at 
SOS ETOUSA did its best to supply the 
alerted Torch units from stocks in the 
theater. 52 



52 (1) Lutes, "Supply: World War II, The 
Flight to Europe in 1942," pp- 10-11. (2) Hist Ord 
Sec SOS, p. 8. 



All depots were combed for Ordnance 
supplies. They were found in Quarter- 
master, Engineer, and Medical depots, 
mixed with all sorts of other material. In 
one instance, two 90-mm. guns were found 
in a Quartermaster depot. The depots 
worked 24-hour shifts, since manpower was 
still spread thin. A second Ordnance de- 
pot company, the 78th, assigned to II 
Corps, arrived in mid-September and was 
divided between Tidworth and Ashchurch, 
but it never received any of its table of 
basic allowances equipment and could 
not be used to best advantage. Working 
against time, the depot men found enough 



106 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



replacement spares in the theater's mainte- 
nance stocks to supply major items. Spare 
parts, for which there was a constant clam- 
or, presented a far more difficult problem, 
especially in the case of general purpose 
vehicles. At the time, spare parts were 
shipped overseas in boxed lots, that is, they 
were boxed in quantities that were thought 
to be sufficient to supply a hundred trucks 
for the first year. The contents varied and 
sometimes did not contain enough fast- 
moving parts, such as spark plugs. For 
some vehicles there were not enough boxed 
lots. To supply the thousands of 2 /2-ton 
trucks in the theater, less than one boxed 
lot was received by the end of 1942. The 
only solution was the dismantling of new 
2 /2-ton trucks in TUP boxes. Approxi- 
mately 75 were dismantled at Tid worth 
and the parts boxed and shipped to North 
Africa. 53 

Almost all of the uncrated vehicles had 
arrived short of tools. The British supplied 
some tool sets for trucks, but their use was 
limited because tools were based on British 
vehicles, which used many nuts and bolts 
of sizes different from those used in Amer- 
ican trucks. Tools for the repair of "old 
Ordnance" materiel were even harder to 
obtain, and those that arrived were often 
pilfered. Ordnance shop trucks arrived 
assembled, and, entrusted to British drivers 
on the journey from port to depot, were 
frequently rifled. The commanding of- 



63 (1) Sayler Rpt. (2) History 78th Ordnance 
Depot Co. (3) Notes on Staff Conference 16 
November 1942, Admin 453 Staff Conference 
Notes, 1942. (4) Chenault History. (5) Memo, 
G-4 for Chief Ord Serv, 23 Oct 42, sub: Memo- 
randum No. W850-5-42, dtd 24/8/42, re: Auto- 
motive Parts Policy, and 2d Ind, ETO 451.01 
Vehicle Parts and Accessories 1942, KCRC. 



ficer of the 105th Ordnance Medium 
Maintenance Company estimated that 22 
out of 23 shop trucks received in the first 
six weeks after the company's arrival in 
the theater had been "effectively robbed"; 
and this was only one of many such re- 
ports. The Ordnance Procurement Divi- 
sion did obtain some other supplies from 
the British, but local procurement was li- 
mited mostly to hardware, target material, 
some parts common, and cleaning and 
preserving material, including that used 
for waterproofing. 54 

The new problem of waterproofing 
material to enable trucks and tanks to 
swim to the shore after they left the 
ramps of landing craft became increasingly 
important as preparations accelerated for 
a major amphibious landing. Here the 
British helped greatly, for they had de- 
veloped a compound that would seal the 
vital parts of vehicles and yet could be 
easily stripped off after the landing. 
Using this compound to seal engines, elec- 
trical systems, and running gear, and af- 
fixing metal and rubber tubing to extend 
exhaust and intake outlets above the water, 
Capt. Madison Post of the newly estab- 
lished Ordnance Engineering Division, 
SOS ETOUSA, by 20 October evolved a 
means of operating trucks in three feet of 
salt water for a short period. Waterproof- 
ing tanks seemed simpler to the combat 
forces, because the enveloping hull of the 
tank made it unnecessary to waterproof 
each individual component, but Ordnance 
officers thought it considerably more com- 
plicated, since the hull had to be made 



M (i) Sayler Rpt. (2) Chenault History. (3) 
Ord Serv ETO, Planning and Organization, pp. 
44-45- 



THE BASE IN THE BRITISH ISLES 



107 



watertight, and it had many openings. To 
keep the engines from being flooded, metal 
"fording stacks" extending above the water 
had to be fitted on the exhaust pipes. Be- 
cause the stacks interfered with the traverse 
of the turret they had to be quickly jet- 
tisoned after the landing so that the tanks 
could go in shooting. Working closely 
with the British, Ordnance officers round- 
ed up large quantities of waterproofing 
material — metal tubing, rubber garden 
hose, sealing compounds, and a few Brit- 
ish waterproofing kits — and arranged for 
shipment of the material to Ballykinler, Ash- 
church, Tidworth, and other places where 
American troops were preparing for the 
North African landings. 55 

The North African venture began from 
the United Kingdom on 22 October 1942, 
when a cargo convoy of 46 vessels left 
British ports with supplies for the Center 
and Eastern Task Forces. On 24 October 
a second cargo convoy of 51 vessels sailed, 
and on 26 October and 1 November the 
first two troop convoys, of 41 and 17 ves- 
sels, respectively, departed with 68,463 
American and 56,297 British troops. After 
that, convoys left the base in the British 



65 ( 1 ) Intervs, Brig Gen Paul M. Robinett, 8 
Nov 55, and G. L. Artamonoff, 14 Feb 56. (2) 
1 st Ind to Ltr, CG SOS, 20 Oct 42; Memo, AG 
for Ord, 7 Oct 42, sub: Waterproofing Motor 
Vehicles, and 1st Ind; Ltr, Capt Madison Post 
to Chief Engrg Div, 3 Nov 42, sub: Report of 
Contact with Experimental Station at Westward 
Ho!, and other documents in ETO 451 .01 Vehicle 
Parts and Accessories 1942, KCRC. (3) ETO Ord- 
nance Office Order 2, Change 1, 1 September 1942 
established an Engineering Division to handle 
technical information and prepare bulletins on 
modifications and repair methods evolved in the 
theater. Ord Serv ETO, Planning and Organiza- 
tion, Annex 29. 



Isles at intervals of approximately one a 
week through December. The first ten 
cargo convoys carried among them 288,438 
long tons of cargo, of which more than a 
third was Ordnance materiel. Food and 
clothing and similar Quartermaster supplies 
constituted the largest amount of tonnage, 
35.2 percent of the whole; vehicles were 
next, 28.2 percent. Engineer supplies ac- 
counted for 12.8 percent, "old Ordnance" 
for 1 1.1 percent, gas and oil, 7.9 percent. 
Other technical services — Medical, Signal, 
and Chemical Warfare — had less than 1 
percent each. 56 

As the first assault elements headed out 
into the Atlantic in a high wind and heavy 
sea, zigzagging south in a wide arc, Colonel 
Sayler in London began to assess the Ord- 
nance effort in mounting Torch. There 
were two serious causes for concern — ve- 
hicles and spare parts. The troops did not 
have their full table of equipment comple- 
ment of trucks because it took too much 
shipping space to transport wheeled ve- 
hicles. The units could take only about 
60 percent, with the promise that the other 
40 percent would be shipped to North 
Africa in crates and assembled there. They 
did not have enough spare parts of certain 
kinds. The supply of automotive spare 
parts in the theater had been unbalanced: 
there had been sufficient for some makes 
of vehicles and practically none for others. 
To a certain extent the shortage was caused 
by shortages in the United States, but it 
was also attributable to confusion at the 
New York Port of Embarkation. Enough 



56 MS Torch — Its Relations With the European 
Theater of Operations, pp. 39, 52—58, Admin 532 — 
Torch Opn. 



108 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



major items for maintenance purposes had 
been furnished (on a 45-day basis, how- 
ever) and on the whole, though some 
major items had been cannibalized to 
provide spare parts, Colonel Sayler thought 
the forces departing for North Africa were 
well equipped with Ordnance general 
supplies. 57 

Ammunition supply officers believed that 
units of the Center and Eastern Task 
Forces had been supplied with sufficient 
ammunition from British depots. Shortages 
of certain types, notably antitank mines, 
hand grenades, and pyrotechnics, had been 
filled by procurement from the British. 58 

In supplying arms, vehicles, and am- 
munition for Torch, Colonel Sayler's main 
problem, like that of Colonel Holman in 
Australia, had been lack of enough men 
to do the job. At headquarters the staff 
had to work far into the night, or all night, 
to meet the time schedule since it was 50 
percent understrength in officers, and the 
depots and shops were in the same con- 
dition. In the field, where autumn rains 
made seas of mud out of vehicle parks and 
ammunition depots, Ordnance troops of 
all kinds worked at whatever jobs had to 
be done. From Rushden in late Septem- 
ber and early October a depot company 
and a maintenance company were sent to 
unload ammunition at Braybrooke; at 
Ashchurch a weapons maintenance com- 
pany worked on motor transport. Engineer 
troops and, later, field artillery troops had 
to be borrowed to help the Tilefer organ- 



ization operate vehicle parks. The British 
Army continued to help. As preparations 
quickened in late September, for example, 
50 skilled packers and craters were sent 
from the Hilsea RAOC depot to help with 
the work at Ashchurch. Ordnance officers 
gratefully acknowledged the debt they 
owed the men of the Royal Army Ord- 
nance Corps for help on general supplies 
and on ammunition. 59 

The cables and letters sent from the 
British Isles in the fall of 1942 had a 
familiar ring to Ordnance officers in the 
United States, for in many respects they 
dealt with the same problems that were 
stressed in cables and letters from Australia. 
They had the same urgency and often 
showed the same lack of comprehension 
of the problems at home — the demands 
of many theaters for limited stocks, the 
upheaval caused by the new responsibility 
for motor transport, the creaks and strains 
of a war machine just getting into gear. 
It was perhaps inevitable that theater com- 
manders were affected by what General 
Marshall called "localitis" — a local instead 
of a global view of the war. To com- 
manders in North Africa early in 1943 
Marshall talked of Americans fighting in 
water to their waists in the swamps of 
Guadalcanal and New Guinea. His lis- 
teners were sure that when he flew to the 
Southwest Pacific he would emphasize the 
"tough going" Americans were encounter- 
ing in North Africa. 60 



67 (1) Sayler Rpt. (2) Notes on Staff Con- 
ference 16 Nov 42, ETO Admin 453 Staff Con- 
ference Notes, 1942. (3) Chenault History. 

68 ( 1 ) McKay Rpt, 1 9 Oct 42. ( 2 ) G-4 Periodic 
Report, ETO (Quarter Ending 31 Dec 42). 



69 (1) Sayler Rpt. (2) McKay Rpt, 19 Oct 42. 
(3) Ord Serv ETO, Class II and IV Supply, pp. 
25-27. (4) Hist Ord Sec SOS, p. 8. (5) Hist 
G-25, p. 11. 

60 Butcher, My Three Years With Eisenhower. 
P- 324- 



CHAPTER VII 



Oran and the Provisional Ordnance 
Group 



Tactical Plans 

When the assault convoy of the Center 
Task Force headed into the cold Atlantic 
on 26 October 1942, many of the men 
aboard thought they were bound for the 
USSR or Norway or Iceland. A few 
thought they were returning to the United 
States. Then the great armada turned 
south. On the fifth day out, after the 
ships had come into calm seas and sun- 
shine, the men were told that they were 
going to North Africa. Throughout the 
convoy, officers were summoned to the 
lounges of converted liners and the ward- 
rooms of merchantmen and warships, and 
the briefings began. The Center Task 
Force would go ashore at three beaches in 
the vicinity of Oran on 8 November at 
0100, the exact hour when the Western 
Task Force coming from the United States 
was to land at Casablanca and the Eastern 
Assault Force, mostly British, was to touch 
down at Algiers. 1 

The purpose of the landings at Oran, 



*(i) Ernie Pyle, Here Is Your War (New 
York: H. Holt and Company, 1943), p. 5. (2) 
H. R. Knickerbocker et ai, Danger Forward: The 
Story of the First Division in World War II (Wash- 
ington: The Society of the First Division, 1947), 
P- 37- (3) Lowell Bennett, Assignment to Nowhere 
(New York: Vanguard Press, 1943), p. 26. 



Casablanca, and Algiers was to secure bases 
on the coast of North Africa. After the 
bases were secured, there would be rapid 
exploitation to acquire complete control 
of French Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia 
and extend offensive operations against the 
rear of Axis forces to the east. The next 
object was the complete annihilation of 
the Axis forces opposing the British forces 
in the Western Desert. At El 'Alamein 
Montgomery had launched his attack 
against Rommel three days before the 
Torch convoy sailed from England. Un- 
doubtedly Hitler would try to reinforce 
Rommel through Bizerte and Tunis, the 
best ports available to the Germans in Afri- 
ca; therefore, the speedy capture of north- 
ern Tunisia was the main strategic purpose 
of the Allied invasion of North Africa. 
However, the Allied forces could not ig- 
nore the danger of German intervention 
through Spain, which would cut the Med- 
iterranean supply line. For this reason 
the Americans at Casablanca and Oran 
were to protect the rear in Morocco while 
the British at Algiers rushed forward to 
Tunisia. 2 (Map 1) 



2 (i) Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, pp. 106, 
116, 121-22. (2) Samuel Eliot Morison, "History 
of the United States Naval Operations in World 
War II," Operations in North African Waters, 



110 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




MAPI 



During the Center Task Force briefings 
on shipboard, pointers moving over large 
detailed maps showed where the Oran 
landings were to take place. The most 
important was in the Gulf of Arzew, twen- 
ty-five miles east of the city, where there 



October ig42-June 1943 (Boston: Lttle, Brown 
and Company, 1954), p. 16, quoting Combined 
Chiefs of Staff Directive for Commander in Chief 
Allied Expeditionary Force. 



were two coastal batteries and a French 
garrison. A company of Rangers was to 
spearhead the assault, followed by the 
1 6th and 18th Regimental Combat Teams 
(RCT's) of the ist Infantry Division and 
most of the tanks of Combat Command 
B, 1 st Armored Division. Simultaneously 
with the landing at Arzew, the 26th Regi- 
mental Combat Team, ist Infantry Divi- 
sion, was to go ashore at Baie des Anda- 



ORAN AND THE PROVISIONAL ORDNANCE GROUP 



111 



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LINES OF COMMUNICATION 












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LIBYA 


- — . — ■ — .- Railroad, narrow gauge, single track 
Principal ports are underlined 












50 100 150 200 MILES 












50 100 150 200 KILOMETERS 



louses, twelve miles west of Oran and, with 
the 1 6th and i8th RCT's from Arzew, 
form a pincers movement on Oran. The 
remaining tanks of Combat Command B 
were to land fifteen miles west of Anda- 
louses at Mersa Bou Zedjar. The two 
mobile columns, consisting of light tanks, 
armored infantry, engineers, and tank 
destroyers were to strike inland and capture 
airfields, which were to be held by para- 



chutists until the aircraft of the Twelfth 
Air Force could arrive. 3 

The flying columns had the bulk of the 
Ordnance support of the Oran landings — 
two companies of the 123d Ordnance 
Maintenance Battalion, which was organic 
to the 1 st Armored Division. These com- 



3 Howe, Northwest Africa, p. 192. Unless other- 
wise noted this chapter is based on this source. 



112 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



panies, a few air units, and a small detach- 
ment with the 1 68th Regimental Combat 
Team of the Eastern Assault Force, were 
the only Ordnance troops in the Mediter- 
ranean assault convoys. 4 Some 2,000 ad- 
ditional Ordnance troops were due in the 
second convoy from England, expected 
on D plus 3, and the following convoys, 
coming in at regular intervals through De- 
cember, would bring in other units that 
would swell the total number of Ordnance 
troops (to support base as well as combat 
operations) to nearly 9,000. 5 

Ordnance Service: The Group 
Concept 

Aboard the Orbita in the assault convoy, 
Colonel Niblo had been taking advantage 
of shipboard freedom from routine to de- 
velop his final plan for Ordnance service 
to II Corps. The plan, set forth in essence 
as a standing operating procedure in the 
last frantic weeks before the departure 
from England, assembled Ordnance bat- 
talions — the maintenance battalion author- 
ized for a normal corps, plus as many ad- 
ditional battalions as were needed for a 
reinforced corps such as II Corps— under 
an Ordnance group headquarters. 6 



4 ( 1 ) Miscellaneous Papers in Center Task 
Fore , Naval Shipping (Loading Plans) Oct-Nov 
42. (2) Rpt, Col D. J. Crawford, Ordnance Serv- 
ice in Support of the Tunisian Campaign, Nov 20, 
1942 to May 15, 1943 (hereafter cited as Ord 
Serv Tunisian Campaign), p. 2, OHF. 

6 Standing Operating Procedure, II Corps Ord- 
nance Service, 13 Oct 42, Annex A, II Corps 
Ord Sec, Misc Corres, KCRC. 

e (i) SOP, II Corps Ordnance Service, 13 Oct 
42. (2) Interv with George L. Artamonoff, 14 
Feb 56. (3) The normal corps was essentially the 
same as the old type corps (which consisted or- 
ganically of three infantry divisions plus specified 



In planning for the reorganization of 
the Army after Pearl Harbor, General 
McNair recommended that regimental or- 
ganization be abolished in all branches ex- 
cept infantry and cavalry regiments of di- 
visions and that its place be taken by 
group headquarters, a small, nonadmin- 
istrative unit for the training and tactical 
handling of about four battalions. The 
group concept provided a flexibility that 
was impossible in large organic units such 
as the regiment, because battalions were 
not assigned to the group organically, but 
were attached to it and detached from it 
as circumstances required. The applica- 
tion of this principle to service units fol- 
lowed naturally as a means of providing 
support for widely dispersed combat units 
and was strongly advocated for Ordnance 
units by General McNair's Ordnance of- 
ficer, Col. Robert W. Daniels, especially 
after Ordnance received greatly increased 
responsibilities in the transfer of motor ve- 
hicle supply and maintenance in the sum- 
mer of 1942. 7 

Meanwhile, the planning at the Office, 
Chief of Ordnance, was directed toward 
the older regimental organization for Ord- 
nance troops. It had been initiated by 
Brig. Gen. James K. Crain, chief planner 
for Ordnance field service at the beginning 

corps troops) but without the organic assignment. 
At this period the trend was away from organic 
assignment and the term type. Greenfield, Palmer, 
and Wiley, Organization of Ground Combat Troops, 
pp. 279-80. 

7 ( 1 ) Draft Memo ( unused ) , Lt Gen L. J. McNair 
for CofS U.S. Army, sub: Revision of Type Army 
Corps and Army Troops (n.d.), and Memo, same 
to same, sub: Organization of Service Troops, 8 
Jan 43, both in AGF 320.2 Strength, Binder 17. 
(2) Interv, Brig Gen Robert W. Daniels, USA 
Ret, 5-6 Jun 63. (3) Brig Gen R. W. Daniels, 
"Field Ordnance Service," Ordnance, XXXVIII. 
No. 203 (Mar-Apr, 1954), 750-51. 



ORAN AND THE PROVISIONAL ORDNANCE GROUP 



113 



of World War II, and grew out of his ex- 
perience in World War I. At that time 
the largest Ordnance organization with the 
combat troops consisted of a maintenance 
company with each division, attached to the 
division ammunition train, without equip- 
ment or supplies, and commanded by the 
colonel commanding the train, who some- 
times, Crain observed, put the Ordnance 
men to such tasks as kitchen police duty or 
washing trucks. Crain, then Ordnance of- 
ficer of Second Army, concluded that Ord- 
nance units ought to have their own house- 
keeping facilities, because otherwise they 
were shackled to the unit that fed them; 
that they ought to be concentrated for more 
efficient service; and that they ought to be 
under Ordnance command, or if that was 
not possible, under Ordnance technical 
supervision. The answer was battalion or- 
ganization, which he learned about from 
the French at Rheims in February 191 8. 
By 1940 he had succeeded in establishing 
an Ordnance battalion in the U.S. Army 
at corps level. In the formative 1940-42 
period, he went further and made much 
more ambitious plans, which envisioned 
placing under the Ordnance officer at army 
level an Ordnance brigade consisting of an 
ammunition regiment and a maintenance 
and supply regiment. 8 

During 1942 approval could not be ob- 
tained either for group or regimental or- 
ganization for Ordnance troops in the com- 
bat zone, though the General Staff did 
approve regimental organization for Ord- 
nance overseas base maintenance units. 
Niblo, who had been refused authority to 
expand the II Corps Ordnance Section to 




Colonel Niblo. (Photograph taken 
after his promotion to brigadier general.) 

a size large enough to enable him to exercise 
properly command control over his Ord- 
nance battalions — ultimately five — favored 
the group type of organization. With au- 
thorization from the II Corps commander, 
Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall, he was 
able to organize a group headquarters pro- 
visionally in the theater. There was not 
time to wait for authorization from Wash- 
ington, which might have delayed the for- 
mation of the group interminably. 9 On the 
surface, five battalions, totaling nearly 5,000 
men, seemed a rather large and "top- 
heavy" Ordnance organization for a single 
reinforced corps; but men who served with 
it later in Tunisia considered it "very nearly 
correct." 10 



8 (1) Interv with Maj Gen James K. Crain, 17 
Feb 54. (2) Maj Gen J. K. Crain, "Ordnance in 
the Field," Ordnance, XXXIX, No. 206 (Septem- 
ber-October, 1954), 327-29. 



9 ( 1 ) Interv with Niblo, 28 Sep 55, and Arta- 
monoff Interv. (2) Ltr, Maj Gen John B. Meda- 
ris, USA Ret, to Lida Mayo, 2 Dec 63. (3) Ltr, 
Niblo to Campbell, 1 Sep 43, Campbell Overseas 
File, OHF. 

10 Rpt, Maj George T. Petersen, Ordnance 
Operations in the Mediterranean Theater of Oper- 



114 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



The II Corps Provisional Ordnance 
Group (POG) in the planning stage con- 
sisted of two battalions, one composed 
chiefly of heavy maintenance automotive 
companies, the other of medium mainte- 
nance and ammunition companies. Niblo 
intended to command the group himself, 
with Lt. Col. Russell A. Rose as his execu- 
tive, setting up his headquarters according 
to the table of organization provided on i 
April 1942 for an Ordnance base regiment. 
He planned to operate the Ordnance Zone 
of Communications (SOS) facilities, which 
would be his responsibility temporarily, 
with an Ordnance base regiment coming 
from the United States, one of the new base 
shop organizations that were now ready to 
be sent overseas. 11 

The Landing at Oran 

As the convoy passed through Gibraltar 
on the evening of 6 November, one question 
uppermost in everybody's mind was the 
attitude of the French. At Oran, ill will 
toward the British might be expected, for it 
was there that the Royal Navy had at- 
tacked the French Fleet, but the Americans 
hoped to be received as friends. The first 
landing craft to go ashore at Arzew were 
equipped with loudspeakers through which 
men especially chosen for their American- 



ations (hereafter cited as Petersen Rpt, 14 Feb 
45), Incl to Ltr, Gen Stilwell to CG's Second and 
Fourth Armies, same sub, 14 Feb 45, Document 
155.2-20, Armored School Library. 

11 ( 1 ) SOP, II Corps Ordnance Service, 13 
Oct 42. (2) CTF, LO, 13 Nov 42, sub: Organiza- 
tion of Provisional Ordnance Group, II Corps, 
II Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. (3) A 
battalion of the 303d Ordnance Base Regiment, 
the first unit of this new type of organization to 
reach any theater of operations, was then on its 
way to Egypt to work in the Heliopolis tank shop. 
See above, p. 22. 



accented French were to shout "Ne tirez 
pas! Vive la France!" To emphasize dra- 
matically that the landing was American, 
the 1 8th Regimental Combat Team carried 
a mortar that would shoot an egg-shaped 
bomb about two hundred feet into the air, 
where it would burst into a magnificent 
pyrotechnic display of the American flag 
in color. There were four such sets of 
fireworks, each capable of flinging the star- 
spangled banner a hundred feet across the 
sky. 12 

On the evening of 7 November the con- 
voys of the Center and Eastern forces 
separated off Oran. The Eastern Assault 
Force proceeded to Algiers and the Center 
Task Force turned south. One group of 
transports stood into the Gulf of Arzew, 
two others made contact with British 
beacon submarines that guided them to 
their beaches west of Oran. 

In the Gulf of Arzew the landings began 
about 0030 on 8 November. The Rangers 
landed without much opposition and were 
followed by infantrymen of the 1st Divi- 
sion. The French were taken by surprise. 
They seemed to have no inclination to 
regard the invaders as friends and libera- 
tors, but their fire was sporadic and uncer- 
tain since the landing craft were well con- 
cealed by smoke screens laid down by the 
Royal Navy and the dispersed landings 
confused and disorganized the defenders. 
The only 1st Division unit that encountered 
any firm resistance was the 18th Regi- 
mental Combat Team, advancing north- 
west of Arzew, and that was triggered by a 
sergeant's impatience to "shoot the flag." 
About 0300, a column of flame shot up- 
ward near the 18th Regimental Combat 



12 Knickerbocker et al., Danger Forward, pp. 
24, 39- 



ORAN AND THE PROVISIONAL ORDNANCE GROUP 



115 




Jeep Headed Inland Over Steel Matting Near Les Andalouses 



Team's command post, emitting sparks 
that hung in the sky for a moment and 
then burst into the American flag in full 
color. At last the French had a good 
target. Mortar, machine gun, and rifle 
fire converged on the new target and the 
men at the command post had to scatter. 13 
The personnel ships carrying Colonel 
Niblo and other staff officers entered the 
Gulf of Arzew at sunrise. As the sun dis- 
pelled the early morning fog that hung 
over the water and struck the slopes of the 
mountains beyond the beaches, the men at 
the rails of their ships could see the assault 
columns fighting their way to the crest of 



13 ( i ) Morison, Operations in North African 
Waters, pp. 231-35. (2) Knickerbocker et al. s 
Danger Forward, p. 25. 



the heights above Arzew and later the 
small groups of prisoners descending the 
slopes to the town. They could see also the 
operation of the flat-bottomed, ungainly 
Maracaibos, forerunners of the LST's 
( landing ships, tank ) . These shallow-draft 
oil tankers, designed to sail Lake Mara- 
caibo, Venezuela, and converted by the 
British into tank-landing vessels, had a bow 
landing ramp, closed while under way with 
a pair of huge doors, that could be extended 
with a ponton bridge section to cover the 
span between ship and shoal water. The 
bow openings were too narrow for medium 
M3 tanks but could easily take light tanks. 14 



14 ( 1 ) McNamara, "The Mounting of 'Torch' 
from England," pp. 13-14. (2) Robinett Interv. 



116 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



The Maracaibos Misoa and Tasajera, 
loaded to capacity with the light tanks, 
half-tracks, towed guns, jeeps, and other 
vehicles of Combat Command B, grounded 
off the beach at Arzew about 0400. It took 
nearly two hours to emplace the ponton 
bridging, but in another two hours all the 
vehicles had rumbled over the bridge, 
splashed through the few feet of water, and 
driven across steel matting laid on the sand 
to their assembly area for dewaterproofing, 
which was done by the tankers' own me- 
chanics. The Maracaibos might not have 
worked if the sea had not been calm, the 
slope of the beach steep, and opposition 
nonexistent, but fortune had favored the 
landing. At 0820 the reconnaissance ele- 
ments moved off, followed fifteen minutes 
later by the flying column. The Ordnance 
officers were gratified to observe that the 
waterproofing had succeeded and could be 
removed without difficulty. 15 

The Orbita was ten hours in the harbor 
before the British naval officers, who were 
short of landing craft, allowed anyone to 
disembark. Late in the afternoon the sea 
sprang up, and vehicles and supplies could 
no longer be ferried onto the beaches but 
had to be unloaded on the docks, which 
were soon clogged. When Maj. George L. 
Artamonoff, Niblo's operations officer, got 
ashore on the evening of D-day he saw that 
the quays were blocked with equipment 
and that there had been no adequate pro- 
vision for carrying it away. The unload- 
ing of motor vehicles seemed inordinately 
slow. 16 



1= ( 1 ) Operation Report, Task Force Red, in 
Center Task Force, Rpt on Opn Torch, 13 Nov 
42. (2) Ltr, Maj Artamonoff and Capt John Ray 
to Ord Officer, CTF, 2 Dec 42, sub: Data on 
Amphibious Operations (D Convoy), II Corps 
Ord Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. 

,8 f 1 ) Ibid. (2) CTF, Lessons from Operation 



Fortunately, railway facilities at Arzew 
were usable. The 1st Division's Quarter- 
master battalion commandeered a locomo- 
tive and five cars and with the help of a 
native crew and an Engineer brigade 
shuttled stores around docks and from 
beaches to the Arzew railway station, which 
served as a distribution point. A Trans- 
portation Corps officer by distributing C 
rations to a French crew persuaded it to run 
a trainload of ammunition from Arzew to 
the 1 8th RCT, then fighting its way to 
Oran. The next day the Quartermaster 
battalion organized an ammunition, ration, 
and water supply dump in a bivouac area 
a few miles inland. 17 

While the mobile columns of tanks 
mopped up the airfields and the 1st Divi- 
sion combat teams pressed toward Oran, 
staff officers remained in Arzew, sleeping 
on the stone floor of a schoolhouse the 
night of D-day. Late on the second day, 
word came from General Fredendall, still 
aboard his ship, that the combat teams 
were moving too slowly and that it was 
imperative that Oran be taken the next 
day, 10 November. Maj. Gen. Terry de la 
Mesa Allen, commanding the 1st Infantry 
Division, thereupon ordered the attack for 
0715. Colonel Niblo sent Major Arta- 
monoff forward at once so that he could 
enter the city as soon as possible after its 
capture to reconnoiter sites for Ordnance 

Torch, p. 4. (3) A few amphibious jeeps had 
been used, but they were not particularly success- 
ful. Artamonoff Interv. 

17 ( 1 ) William F. Ross and Charles F. Roma- 
nus, The Quartermaster Corps: Operations in the 
War Against Germany, UNITED STATES ARMY 
IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1965). p. 53. 
(2) H. H. Dunham, Historical Unit, OCT, ASF. 
Monograph, U.S. Army Transportation and the 
Conquest of North Africa, 1942-1943 (hereafter 
cited as Dunham MS), January 1945. pp. 86, 180. 
MS. OCMH. 



ORAN AND THE PROVISIONAL ORDNANCE GROUP 



117 



depots and dumps. Artamonoff started off 
in a driving, sleety rain on the evening of 
g November and, in spite of the blackout 
and unfamiliar terrain, late that night 
caught up with the most advanced elements 
of the 1 6th RCT. He spent the rest of the 
night at Ferme St. Jean de Baptiste, on the 
eastern outskirts of Oran. There at noon 
the next day he saw a blue flag raised over 
the city, the prearranged signal that Oran 
had surrendered. 18 

The city's wide, palm-lined streets, bor- 
dered with modern office buildings and 
sidewalk cafes, offered interesting con- 
trasts. Most of the people were French and 
Spanish, but there were Arabs in ragged 
sheets, and gaunt dogs shared the streets 
with horse-drawn carts. The few auto- 
mobiles burned alcohol, and the odor per- 
vaded the city. The beautiful harbor was 
littered with wreckage, for the attempt on 
D-day by the British cutters Hartland and 
Walney to capture the batteries and wharves 
and prevent sabotage had been a costly 
failure. The quays were piled with mer- 
chandise, including thousands of barrels of 
wine destined for export to Germany and 
Italy. 19 

Soon after the Americans entered Oran 
they learned that the landing of the East- 
ern Assault Force at Algiers had been suc- 
cessful. That of Western Task Force at 
Casablanca had met stiff opposition, but 
by 12 November Morocco was safely in 
American hands. Of the three task forces, 
Center was the only one, according to the 
official history of Torch, that "could sub- 
sequently claim to have won a decision 



wholly by force of arms." 20 Elsewhere, 
political considerations entered in. No- 
where did the French seem very much dis- 
posed to regard the Allies as liberators. 
Except for a few scattered bursts of enthu- 
siasm, the people lined up along the streets 
of Oran were not friendly. The French 
were cool and many of the Arabs, who had 
been good subjects for Axis indoctrination, 
were actively hostile and continued sniping 
for some time. 2 ' 

Major Artamonoff, who was in Oran 
well ahead of Quartermaster and other 
supply officers, and who had another ad- 
vantage in being able to speak French 
fluently, obtained good depot space at 
Nouvelle Halle, the local market. On a tip 
from French newspapermen, he found 
comfortable quarters for Colonel Niblo and 
the Ordnance staff at a villa just vacated 
by the Italian naval delegation to the Ger- 
man-Italian Armistice Commission. Called 
Villa Charpentier, located on Lotissement 
Saint Hubert, it was about two miles from 
the center of town, behind the Oran Tennis 
Club. Offices and a mess were set up at 
the tennis club when Colonel Niblo and 
the staff arrived next day, 1 1 November." 

On the same day the first important 
follow-up convoy from England arrived, 
bringing a large contingent of Ordnance 
troops and the rest of the staff. Disembark- 
ing at Mers-el-Kebir, the troops were met 
by Major Artamonoff and taken to camps 
in the countryside around Oran. They 
found the sunny African climate a welcome 
change from the cold English autumn. The 



18 Artamonoff Interv. 

19 ( i ) Morison, Operations in North African 
Waters, pp. 225-30. (2) Pyle, Here Is Your War. 
pp. 26-27. (3) Dunham MS, p. 195. 



20 Howe, Northwest Africa, p. 227. 

21 ( 1 ) Knickerbocker et ai, Danger Forward, 
p. 32. (2) Artamonoff Interv. 

22 (1) Ibid. (2) Memo, Niblo for AG CTF, 8 
Dec 42, sub: Location of Ordnance Units. CTF, 
320.2 II Corps Ord Sec KCRC. 



118 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




Oran Harbor 



arrivals included four "old Ordnance" com- 
panies: the 14th Medium Maintenance, 
the 53d and 66th Ammunition, and the 
30th Heavy Maintenance (Tank) ; and 
two automotive maintenance battalions, the 
87th Medium Maintenance and the 1st 
Battalion of the 55th Heavy Maintenance 
Regiment (Q), a unit that still carried its 
old Quartermaster designation. 23 

The Provisional Ordnance Group 

Colonel Niblo lost no time in organizing 
his Provisional Ordnance Group. For the 



23 ( 1 ) Artamonoff Interv. (2) Ltr, Crawford to 
Campbell, 28 May 43, in file Hist AFHQ Ord 
Sec, OHF. 



i st Battalion of the group he took the 1st 
Battalion of the 55th Heavy Maintenance 
Regiment (Q) and added the "old Ord- 
nance" maintenance companies and one 
company of the 87th Medium Mainte- 
nance Automotive Battalion. For the 2d 
Battalion of the group he took the 87th 
Medium Maintenance Battalion (Q) (less 
one company) and added the two ammuni- 
tion companies. The mission of the 1st 
Battalion was to furnish Ordnance service 
(other than ammunition supply) for all 
U.S. Army units within the geographical 
limits of the towns of Oran and Arzew, 
including the ports of those towns, and to 
support the 2d Battalion with fourth echelon 
work. The 2d Battalion was to furnish 



ORAN AND THE PROVISIONAL ORDNANCE GROUP 



119 



Ordnance service — except fourth echelon 
repair — to all U.S. Army organizations out- 
side Oran and Arzew. For the time being 
this meant the Ste. Barbe-du-Tlelat area 
south of Oran, where most of the troops 
of the i st Division and Combat Command 
B were stationed. 1 ' 4 Since the units were 
more or less static, the maintenance work 
at first consisted of inspecting vehicles, 
seeing that waterproofing had been re- 
moved and salt water damage repaired, 
training drivers in preventive maintenance, 
and reporting shortages of vehicles, tools, 
and parts. 23 

The group's first and most important 
job — and this fell to the ist Battalion — 
was to supply the trucks that were so 
badly needed everywhere. The decision 
to send on wheels only 60 percent of the 
vehicles called for by tables of equipment, 
to save shipping space, and to send the 
rest unassembled in crates had worked 
great hardship. Ordnance planners had 
counted on local vehicles to help in the 
emergency. Major Artamonoff had 
orders to buy all he could find, and was 
given $5,000 in silver for the purpose. 1 '" 
The French trucks had been converted to 



24 CTF, LO, 13 Nov 42, sub: Organization of 
Provisional Ordnance Group, and Ltr, Colonel 
Niblo to Commanding Officers, ist and 2d Bat- 
talion, Prov Ord Gp, 21 Nov 42, sub: Ordnance 
Maintenance Service and incls, both in II Corps 
Ord Sec, Misc Corres, KCRC. 

25 Memo, Maj B. Whitehouse for Commanding 
Officer, ist Battalion, Provisional Ordnance Group 
Center Task Force, 23 Nov 42 and Ltr, 2d Lt 
Joe I. Milliken to Chief Ordnance Officer, Second 
Corps, 6 Dec 42, sub: Motor Vehicle Inspection, 
both in II Corps Ord Sec, Misc Corres, KCRC. 

28 Artamonoff Interv. When Ernie Pyle arrived 
on 1 1 November, he found the Renault automobile 
showroom full of new cars. In a few days the Army 
had bought every car. Pyle, Here Is Your War, p. 
26. Another correspondent commented on the "fan- 
tastic prices" paid for civilian cars and trucks. 
Bennett, Assignment to Nowhere, p. 61. 



charcoal or alcohol and many were in 
poor shape. Some dated from World 
War I, some had been driven from Cen- 
tral Africa. Tires were worn and batteries 
were a constant problem. Still, the 
French trucks were very useful in the days 
following the first landings and local 
transport was so badly needed that even 
horse-drawn wagons were pressed into 
service within the port area. Therefore 
it was important to get the American 
vehicles unloaded and operating as quick- 
ly as possible. 27 

At Oran and Arzew the ist Battalion 
rendered "Driveaway Motor Service." 
It set up assembly plants and maintenance 
sections near the docks, assembled the 
crated vehicles, and serviced the wheeled 
vehicles, removing all waterproofing. 
After this was done the men picked up 
a pay load, preferably Ordnance Class II 
supplies or Ordnance organization equip- 
ment, delivered it, and then turned the 
vehicles in to the ist Battalion Motor 
Depot at Nouvelle Halle in Oran for issue 
to Center Task Force units. The trucks 
were so much in demand that many of 
them were put into service without being 
given a thorough road test. 28 Some 
could not be assembled or put into service 
at all because of shortages. Some of the 
twin unit pack crates containing 2/2 -ton 
trucks arrived without brake fluid and 



27 (1) Dunham MS, pp. 186-87, 259- (2) Arta- 
monoff Interv. 

28 ( 1 ) Memo, Colonel Niblo for Commanding 
Officers, ist and 2d Battalions, Provisional Ord- 
nance Group, 22 Nov 42, sub: Ordnance Service. 
Ports of Oran and Arzew, and Memo, Niblo for 
G-4, Center Task Force, 21 Nov 42, both in II 
Corps Ord Sec, Misc Corres, KCRC. (2) MS, 
History of Ordnance Service in the Mediterranean 
Theater of Operations, Nov 42-Nov 45 (hereafter 
cited as Hist Ord Serv MTO), ch. I, p. 18. 



120 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



shock absorber fluid. Electrolyte for bat- 
teries was sometimes missing. French 
laborers, who along with Arabs were used 
in great numbers in the motor vehicle 
operation, made unpredictable mistakes 
in servicing the trucks. One day they 
were found filling dry automobile bat- 
teries with wine from the casks on the 
docks. 29 

Arab labor, as well as French, had its 
drawbacks. The Arabs stole weapons 
and ammunition; one newspaper corre- 
spondent reported that a whole native 
village near Oran had armed itself and 
was contemplating raiding a neighboring 
village for booty and women. And they 
were avid for cloth or anything to make 
clothing. They cut the canvas tops out 
of jeeps parked in the streets. At ammu- 
nition dumps they stole rope grommets 
from the 155's to make shoes and opened 
small arms boxes to steal the bandoleers. 
On occasion they blew themselves up in 
their eagerness to examine boxes of gre- 
nades. Many laborers were young or so 
weak physically that they could hardly 
lift heavy loads; and their disinclination 
to work in the rain played havoc with 
schedules once the rainy season set in. 
Nevertheless, in the early days after the 
Oran landings, Niblo made good use of 
native workers. 30 



29 ( 1 ) Interv, 2 Jan 43, with Colonel Niblo, in 
MS, Col Heavey, Personal Notes on Training 
Activities in England and Observations in North 
Africa, app. II (hereafter cited as Heavey Notes), 
in Folder, "British Relations," Barnes File, OHF. 
(2) Speech, Brig Gen Edward E. MacMorland, 
Deputy Chief for Planning Ordnance Field Service, 
Boston, 5 May 44, p. 9. OHF. 

30 ( 1 ) Bennett, Assignment to Nowhere, p. 58. (2) 
Capt. William G. Meade, "Ammunition Supply in 
the Mediterranean Theater of Operations," The 
Ordnance Sergeant, VIII (October, 1944). 262- 
63. (3) Artamonoff Interv. 



The Provisional Ordnance Group was 
expanded when the second follow-up con- 
voy arrived from England on 28 Novem- 
ber. The convoy brought the head- 
quarters and headquarters detachment of 
the 62 d Ammunition Battalion, which 
made possible the formation of the 3d 
Battalion of the group, to which the two 
ammunition companies were shifted. It 
also brought two medium maintenance 
and one depot company. These were 
added to the group's 2d Battalion, which 
was now given responsibility for all local 
maintenance, leaving the 1st Battalion 
free to concentrate on assembling crated 
vehicles. The 3d Battalion operated 
three ammunition dumps. 31 

The flexibility of the Provisional Ord- 
nance Group was to be tested again very 
soon. Just as the organization for the 
support of the base and the troops around 
Oran was taking shape, it had to be dis- 
mantled to furnish Ordnance service to 
the battlefront in northern Tunisia. Un- 
der Gen. Sir Kenneth A. N. Anderson, the 
British First Army, which was actually only 
a skeleton outfit consisting of two infantry 
brigades and one tank regiment, had lost 
the race to capture Tunis and Bizerte and 
was meeting heavy resistance from the 
Germans who were pouring in from Italy. 
To help the British, General Eisenhower 
on 23 November, the day he arrived in 
Algiers from Gibraltar, sent from Oran 
Combat Command B of the 1st Armored 
Division, and during late November and 



31 (1) Niblo Ltrs of 21, 27 Nov, i Dec 42, and 
CTF Admin Order No. 3, 20 Nov 42, all in II 
Corps Ord Sec, Misc Corres, KCRC. (2) Special 
Order No. 4, 23 Nov 42, Provisional Ordnance 
Group II Corps' Ord Sec, KCRC. (3) CTF Sta- 
tion List, 27 Nov 42, II Corps Ord Sec, 320.2. 
KCRC. 



ORAN AND THE PROVISIONAL ORDNANCE GROUP 



121 



early December he also sent forward ele- 
ments of the i st Infantry Division. 12 

The Move to Northern Tunisia 

For the first Ordnance move forward, 
Colonel Niblo selected his ist Battalion, 
Provisional Ordnance Group, and reor- 
ganized it. Under the headquarters of 
the i st Battalion, 55th Ordnance Heavy 
Maintenance Regiment (Q), he placed 
the 53d Ammunition Company, the 14th 
Medium Maintenance Company, Com- 
pany D of the 87th Medium Automotive 
Maintenance Battalion, and the 78th De- 
pot Company. Colonel Rose was the 
commander of the new battalion. Niblo 
ordered the unit to proceed to Souk el 
Arba in northern Tunisia, the most for- 
ward airfield and supply base, about 750 
miles from Oran. On arrival at l'Arba, 
a town near Algiers, the battalion was to 
come under the control of Colonel Ford, 
Ordnance officer of Allied Force Head- 
quarters, who had just arrived in Algiers 
by air from England. 33 

The move had to be made by truck, 
for the railroad east of Algiers was being 
used to its limited capacity by the British, 
and transportation by sea to the small 
ports of Bone and Philippeville was too 
dependent on weather, availability of 
shipping, and freedom from enemy air 
attack. Above all, trucks were needed 
within the combat zone to make the Ord- 
nance units completely mobile. The 
advance elements of the 715-man ist Bat- 
talion headed east under cover of dark- 



ness on the evening of 30 November and 
all its 183 trucks were on the road, 
escorted by fighter planes, by 10 Decem- 
ber. 34 

Two days later orders came from Allied 
Force Headquarters to send the 30th 
Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company 
(Tank) forward immediately with all the 
replacement tanks, wreckers, and parts it 
could transport. On the night of 10-1 1 
December during the withdrawal from 
Medjez el Bab, the focal point of enemy 
attack, scores of combat vehicles — tanks, 
half-tracks, and tank destroyers — had 
bogged down in the mud and had to be 
abandoned. The tanks were so badly 
mired that the Germans themselves could 
not extricate them. It was a crippling 
loss. In its brief experience in action, 
Combat Command B had lost 32 medium 
and 46 light tanks. The combat vehicles 
that remained were in poor condition. 
Because of limitations on shipment by 
railroad or by sea, most had made at least 
part of the journey to the front on their 
own tracks, which were already worn 
from maneuvers in Ireland, for there had 
not been time to replace them before sail- 
ing for Africa. Once in Africa, some of 
the vehicles had gone overland all the way 



32 Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, pp. 118-22. 

33 ( 1 ) Prov Ord Gp, II Corps, SO Nos. 8 and 
16, 29 Nov, 13 Dec 42. (2) History AFHQ Ord 
Sec, 6 Jan 43, OHF. 



34 ( 1 ) Ord Serv Tunisian Campaign, pp. 1-3. 
(2) Logistical Plans Sect, AFHQ, Aide-Memoire 
on Logistic Limitations to Forces in North Africa, 
1 1 Jan 43, in ASF Planning Div, Theater Br, 20 
General, vol. I. (3) Dunham MS, pp. 206-10, 246. 
(4) LO, CTF to CO Prov Gp, 30 Nov 42, and 
memo, Prov Ord Gp for CG CTF, 1 Dec 42, sub: 
Personnel and Materiel in Movement of 2d Echelon, 
ist Battalion, POG, both in II Corps Ord Sec, 370.5, 
KCRC. (5) By D plus 1 1 there were in Algeria four 
AAF fighter groups minus one squadron. Wesley 
Frank Craven and James Lea Cate, eds., "The Army 
Air Forces in World War II," II, Europe: TORCH 
toPOINTBLANK (Chicago: University of Chicago 
Press, 1949) (hereafter cited as Craven and Cate, 
AAF II), p. 82. 



122 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



to the front since there had been no way 
to carry them over the highways. A 
tractor-trailer for transporting tanks had 
been developed by the United States in 
1 94 1 at the request ol the British, who 
wanted them to rush tanks to danger 
points if the Germans invaded England. 
The British Eighth Army in Egypt was 
equipped with the tractor-trailers and had 
a tank delivery regiment to carry combat 
vehicles from bases to the front. II 
Corps had only ten tank transporters be- 
cause the U.S. Army had not foreseen the 
need for them. This need was one of 
the earliest lessons learned in Tunisia. 35 

When the 30th Ordnance Heavy 
Maintenance Company (Tank) left Oran 
for Souk el Arba on the morning of 14 
December, it took, in addition to its 25 
shop trucks, 13 cargo trucks, miscellane- 
ous light trucks, trailers, and jeeps, 4 40- 
ton tank transporters, each carrying a 
light tank (medium tanks could not be 
unloaded from ships in time), and 2 10- 
ton wreckers. The 30th also took all the 
spare parts that were available in Oran 
and additional supplies for the rest of the 
1 st Battalion, POG. 3G 



35 ( 1 ) Rad, Freedom Algiers to CG, CTF, No. 
961 1, 12 Dec 42, II Corps Ord Sec, 370.5, KC- 
RC. (2) Dispatch by Lt Gen K. A. N. Anderson, 
"Operations in Northwest Africa from 8th Novem- 
ber 1942 to 13th May 1943," 7 Jun 43, Supple- 
ment of 6 Nov 46 to The London Gazette, 5 Nov 
46, pp. 5449-64. (3) Diary and Report of Brig 
Gen Barnes on Trip to North Africa and United 
Kingdom December 1942-January 1943, pp. 14, 
19 and "Notes on General Barnes' Report," p. 6, 
OHF. (4) Intervs. Colonel Crawford, 3 Jun 56, 
and Robinett. 

M (i) Ltr, CO POG to CG CTF, 14 Dec 42. 
sub: Personnel and Materiel in Movement of 30th 
Ord Co, II Corps Ord Sec 370.5, KCRC. (2) 
Ltr, Col Niblo to Ordnance Officer AFHQ, 13 
Dec 42, sub: Ordnance Service for US Troops in 
ETF, II Corps Ord Sec, Misc Corres, KCRC. (3) 
Special Order No. 16, 13 Dec 42. 



The Ordnance convoys leaving Oran 
between 30 November and 14 December 
went east over a hard-surfaced, two-lane 
road that presented few problems until 
they got to the mountainous country be- 
yond Algiers, where steep inclines slowed 
the heavily loaded trucks and corkscrew 
turns all but defeated the heavy wreckers. 
The depot company almost lost a van 
over a cliff when a tire blew out, but 
there were no major disasters." 17 After 
the four-day trip the convoys came down 
from the Atlas Mountains into a flat val- 
ley and encamped in the neighborhood of 
Souk el Arba. For the first few days, 
until the winter rains set in, the position 
was constantly attacked by German dive- 
bombers, which were stationed on con- 
crete runways at Tunis and Bizerte, 
whereas Allied aircraft were bogged down 
in the mud far behind the lines. 

This early Ordnance effort to support 
the British First Army was short but 
strenuous. The ammunition men, cam- 
ouflaging their dump with the only vege- 
tation they could find, some scrubby 
growth resembling tumbleweed, sent de- 
tachments to Bone, where most of the 
ammunition came in from Oran by sea, 
and to the railheads at Duvivier and Souk 
Ahras, to direct shipments by truck to 
Souk el Arba. The maintenance men 
ranged up and down the front in small 
contact parties, sometimes consisting of a 
single vehicle and a handful of men, visit- 
ing tankers, infantry units, and widely 
dispersed antiaircraft units at the railhead 
and in the small ports along the coast. 



37 (1) NATOUSA Report, 1st Lt. Charles S. 
Schwartz, The Field Operations of a Maintenance 
Battalion, copy in OHF, pp. 3-4. (2) Hist 78th 
Ord Depot Co, Jan 42-Dec 44, p. 4. 



ORAN AND THE PROVISIONAL ORDNANCE GROUP 



123 



One detachment, on orders from AFHQ, 
was sent south to central Tunisia to sup- 
port a small U.S. parachute detachment 
under the command of Col. Edson D. 
Raff that was helping the French 19th 
Corps on raiding and reconnaissance mis- 
sions. All contact parties were in con- 
stant danger from German aircraft. By 
the end of December, the II Corps Ord- 
nance officer was asking Center Task 
Force to equip every Ordnance technical 
vehicle and truck with a machine gun for 
defense. 38 

The men in Colonel Rose's battalion 
were the first American supporting troops 
at the front. Moreover, thanks to Colo- 
nel Niblo's "top-heavy" organization, 
Ordnance was the ortly supply service 
able to send troops to Tunisia with the 
combat troops during November and De- 
cember 1942. The 78th Ordnance De- 
pot Company also handled Signal Corps 
supplies and acted as middleman in ob- 
taining clothing, bedding, tools, and other 
articles from the British and then issuing 
them to all arms. There was an enor- 
mous demand for Ordnance supplies. In 
the first week after its arrival the depot 
company made enough issues to free six 
of its nine huge vans for trips back to 
Oran for restocking. 39 

To put an end to the "constant daily 
shipping of piecemeal equipment, all of 



38 ( 1 ) Ord Serv Tunisian Campaign, pp. 2-5. 
(2) Meade, Ammunition Supply in the MTO, 
pp. 261-64. (3) Colonel Edson D. Raff, We 
Jumped to Fight (NY: 1944), PP- '53, 163. (4) 
Memo, Col John B. Medaris, Acting Ord Officer. 
CTF, for ACofS G- 4 , CTF, 31 Dec 42, sub: 
Memo Hq CTF, 28 Dec 42, in II Corps Ord 
Sec 3i 9 .i,KCRC. 

30 (1) Petersen Rpt of 14 Feb 45. (2) Ord 
Serv Tunisian Campaign, p. 3. (3) Hist 78th 
Depot Co, p. 4. 



which appears to be too little and too 
late," Colonel Niblo urged Colonel Ford 
to turn over the Ordnance job in northern 
Tunisia to the whole Provisional Ordnance 
Group. This would enable Niblo to send 
more maintenance men and also would 
allow him to set up a general supply depot 
and large ammunition dump east of 
Algiers. Colonel Ford agreed that a de- 
pot and shop should be established nearer 
the front. The two officers in late De- 
cember made a reconnaissance trip to 
locate space in Constantine, the Algerian 
city where the British First Army head- 
quarters was located, but before they 
could make arrangements a momentous 
decision changed all plans. 40 

Planning for Central Tunisia 

On Christmas Eve, General Eisenhower 
returned to Algiers from a reconnaissance 
of the front in northern Tunisia convinced 
that the torrential rains, deep mud, and 
stiffening enemy resistance had effectively 
stopped General Anderson's advance and 
that the best course was to go on the de- 
fensive for the time being, holding the air- 
fields at Souk el Arba in the north and 
Thelepte and Youks-les-Bains in the south 
and protecting the flank on the south by 
moving II Corps forward to Tebessa, the 
Algerian border city that was the gateway 
to central Tunisia. There the weather 
would be better and, when sufficient rein- 
forcements had been brought up, General 
Fredendall could move east to the coast 
at Sfax or Gabes and prevent Rommel's 



40 Ltrs, Niblo to Ordnance Officer, AFHQ, 13 
Dec 42, sub: Ordnance Service for US Troops in 
ETF, and 16 Feb 42, sub: Estimate of the Ordnance 
Situation in II Corps, II Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres. 
KCRC. 



124 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Afrika Korps, then making a rapid 
strategic withdrawal to Tunisia from 
Tripolitania, from joining Generaloberst 
Hans-Juergen von Arnim's forces in the 
Tunis-Bizerte area. An outline plan for 
an attack toward Sfax, called Satin, was 
approved at AFHQ on 28 December. 41 

By 14 January 1943 final decisions on 
Operation Satin had been made in con- 
ferences between General Eisenhower, 
General Anderson, General Alphonse Juin, 
and General Fredendall at Allied Force 
Headquarters in Constantine. The next 
day Eisenhower flew to Casablanca to re- 
port to the Combined Chiefs of Staff, who 
were attending an international strategic 
conference there. Satin provided that 
Fredendall would first attack Gabes and 
then proceed north up the coast to Sfax, 
with a tentative D-day of 22 January. 
Operating directly under AFHQ, II 
Corps would consist of the U.S. 1st 
Armored Division, the U.S. 26th Regi- 
mental Combat Team, the British 1st Para- 
chute Brigade less one battalion, and the 
French Constantine Division. Over the 
protests of AFHQ logistics staffs, who 
during the conferences at Constantine be- 
tween 10-14 January "wailed that our 
miserable communications could not 
maintain more than an armored division 
and one additional regiment," 42 Eisen- 
hower firmly intended to assign to II 
Corps three infantry divisions as soon as 
they could be brought forward: the 1st, 
the 9th (less the 39th Regimental Combat 
Team), and the 34th. 43 



A Long, Weak, Supply Line 

The logistics staffs had reason for their 
wails. The supply line was very long 
and very weak. The distance from Con- 
stantine — itself from 100 to 300 miles 
from the front — to the nearest big port, 
Oran, was 445 miles; Casablanca was 
440 miles west of Oran. Base sections 
had been planned early for both ports, 
but on Christmas Eve, when Eisenhower 
decided upon the movement to central 
Tunisia, the Mediterranean Base Section 
(MBS) at Oran had been in existence 
only about three weeks, and the first eche- 
lon of the Atlantic Base Section at Casa- 
blanca was just arriving. Eventually 
there was to be an Eastern Base Section 
(EBS) at Constantine, nearer the front, 
but it did not come into being until late 
February 1943. 44 (See Map /.) 

For most of the campaign in the spring 
of 1943 supplies had to be brought 500 to 
1,200 miles from ports of entry; more- 
over, the base sections at the ports were 
just learning, as men had learned in Aus- 
tralia, how hard it was to operate in a 
strange country far from home. Colonel 
Heiss, the Ordnance officer of the Medi- 
terranean Base Section, who, like other 
rear area officers lacked depot equipment 
such as record cards, bins, and lift trucks 
and had to get along with a small inex- 
perienced staff and untrained labor, 
found that it took about eight months to 
establish complete base facilities. In the 
meantime, before he could build up his 



" ( 1 ) Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, pp. 124- 
26. (2) Clark, Calculated Risk, pp. 139-41. 
42 Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 125. 
* 3 Ibid, pp. 1 25-26. 



44 ( 1 ) Col. Creswell G. Blakeney, co:np., Logis- 
tical History of NATOUSA-MTOUSA (Naples, 
Italy: G. Montanino, 1945), pp. 21, 23. (2) History 
of Ordnance Operations Eastern Base Section, 13 
Feb 43-1 Aug 43 (hereafter cited as Hist Ord EBS), 
pp. 2, 10, OHF. 



ORAN AND THE PROVISIONAL ORDNANCE GROUP 



125 



stocks he had to supply troops who 
arrived in the theater without all the 
weapons that their tables of basic allow- 
ances called for. The system that then 
existed for equipping overseas forces pro- 
vided that when a unit in the United 
States received orders to go overseas it 
packed its own equipment, addressed it to 
itself, and shipped it to the port for deliv- 
ery overseas. The equipment might 
arrive long after the troops, or at a dif- 
ferent port. 45 

The bases themselves were at the end 
of a long overwater supply line. It 
usually took about three months to get 
supplies from the United States to the 
theater, often much longer to obtain com- 
plete items. Supply officers came to re- 
gard delivery by ship as "probably the 
most unsatisfactory method of supply that 
the Devil could have invented." 40 Some- 
times the chassis of a truck would be on 
one ship, the cab on another; projectiles 
would arrive without their powder 
charges, which were on another ship. 
This situation was especially serious in the 
early days, when part of a convoy might 
be sunk or have to be diverted to a dif- 
ferent port. The failure to load ships 
with complete items was "the most severe 
and general criticism" of supply coming 
from the United States. There were 
many other complaints from base sections 
of thoughtless editing of requisitions, poor 



45 (i) Col. G. K. Heiss, "Ordnance Overseas: 
Problems of Supply and Maintenance in the 
Theater of Operations," Army Ordnance, XXVII 
(July-August 1944), 92-93. (2) Memo, Somer- 
vell for Campbell, 20 Feb 43, O.O. 350.05/2614/2. 
(3) History Ord Service MTO, ch. VII, p. 214. 

46 Ltr, Maj Gen E. S. Hughes to Gen Campbell, 
12 Apr 43, Campbell Overseas file, OHF. 



marking and packing, and "just plain 
negligence." 47 

The new theater had not yet established 
its - own organization. It was under 
Allied Force Headquarters, a part of the 
European Theater of Operations, until 4 
February 1943, when the North African 
Theater of Operations, United States 
Army (NATOUSA), under General 
Eisenhower was organized. On 12 Feb- 
ruary a Communications Zone, 
NATOUSA, under Brig. Gen. Everett S. 
Hughes, Deputy Theater Commander, 
NATOUSA, was established; and a few 
days later Services of Supply, NATOUSA, 
assumed responsibility for supply and the 
administration of the base sections. It 
took time for all these relationships to be 
straightened out and confusion during the 
first few months of operation was in- 
evitable. 48 

The problems for Ordnance were espe- 
cially complicated because the thousands 
of trucks used in the long haul to the bat- 
tlefront had to be furnished and main- 
tained by Ordnance. The responsibility 
was new, and Ordnance was discovering 
the burden it imposed. When General 
Hughes took over the job as theater 
deputy, he selected Ordnance's Colonel 
Ford as his chief of staff because he re- 
alized that about 60 percent of his job 
was ordnance supply and maintenance; 
he felt "if we could lick the ordnance job, 
we could lick anything easier than 
that." 49 



47 Ltr, Col Carter B. Magruder to Gen Lutes, 
16 Mar 43, ASF Planning Div, Theater Br, 20 
General, vol. III. 

48 (1) Logistical History of NATOUSA-MTO- 
USA, pp. 20-24. (2) History Ord Service MTO. 
ch. VII, pp. 214-16. 

49 Ltr. Hughes to Campbell, 12 Apr 43. 



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ORAN AND THE PROVISIONAL ORDNANCE GROUP 



127 



AFHQ Ordnance 

In the first and most trying months of 
the campaign in Tunisia, Ordnance crises 
at the front had to be referred to the small 
Ordnance Section at AFHQ. On 25 
November Colonel Ford had brought to 
Algiers a staff consisting only of his 
executive officer, Maj. John G. Detwiler, 
and one sergeant. His maintenance and 
supply officer, Colonel Crawford, his am- 
munition officer, Lt. Col. Russell R. 
Klanderman, and the rest of the staff — 
two captains and three technical ser- 
geants — left England on the fifth large 
convoy, aboard the British troopship 
Strathallan, which was torpedoed off 
Oran on 21 December. All aboard were 
picked up by British destroyers and 
landed safely, but it was Christmas Day 
before the AFHQ Ordnance office was 
officially organized. 50 

Like other staff sections of AFHQ, the 
Ordnance Section followed the principle 
called "balanced personnel," that is, the 
section was composed of Americans and 
British in approximately equal strength — 
nine Americans and eight British. Each 
nationality, however, was organized along 
different lines because of different conno- 
tations of ordnance. The British branch 
included — in addition to sections devoted 
to ammunition, weapons and other "war- 
like stores," vehicles, and tanks— sections 
that handled clothing and signal and en- 
gineer stores. Another difference was 
that the British branch did not perform 
technical intelligence, which the British 



assigned to their AFHQ G— 2 (Combat In- 
telligence) Section. {Chart 3) On the 
American side, technical intelligence was an 
important function. Soon after his arrival 
in Algiers, Colonel Crawford, who was to 
succeed Colonel Ford as U.S. Ordnance 
officer of AFHQ when Ford went to 
NATOUSA with Hughes, was sent by 
plane to Egypt to study British Eighth 
Army equipment. 51 

American and British staffs of the 
AFHQ Ordnance office were housed to- 
gether in a building that had been a school 
for girls, Ecole Sainte Genevieve. Colonel 
Crawford was amused to find over the 
door to Colonel Ford's office a reminder 
of the former tenants — a sign, "Les 
Violettes." The sign was the more incon- 
gruous because inside, along with the office 
equipment, were stacked rifles and hand 
grenades used to arm men of the French 
resistance movement. The French were 
trained in demolition work by Major 
Artamonoff (who had arrived in Algiers in 
late December to represent U.S. Ordnance 
on the French Rearmament Commission), 
and then dropped behind enemy lines dis- 
guised as Arabs. 52 

It was thus in an atmosphere of change 
and confusion that the Ordnance effort to 
support II Corps in Tunisia began. Not- 
withstanding the forebodings of the logistics 
staff, nobody could yet tell how hard it was 
to be. 



50 (1) Hist AFHQ Ord Sec. (2) History of 
AFHQ, Part One, pp. 100-101. (3) History Ord 
Service MTO, ch. VII, pp. 243-46. 



51 (1) History of AFHQ. Part One, pp. 67-71. 
(2) Crawford Interv. 

r ' 2 ( 1 ) Crawford and Artamonoff Intervs. (2) His- 
tory Ord Service MTO, ch. VII, p. 247. (3) For 
the French rearmament program see Marcel Vig- 
neras, Rearming the French, UNITED STATES 
ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, D.C., 
1957)- 



CHAPTER VIII 



With II Corps in Tunisia 



On the map Tunisia looks like a sea 
horse, with its snout (Cap Bon) pointing 
toward Sicily. The city of Tunis is the 
eye; Bizerte sits on top of the head. The 
chest protrudes east into the Mediterra- 
nean. The waistline, formed by the Gulf 
of Gabes some 250 miles south of Bizerte, 
is narrow, only about a hundred miles wide 
from the port of Gabes to the Algerian 
border, which forms the spiny upper back 
of the sea horse. Below the waist, all is 
desert; above it there are two irregular 
mountain chains running more or less 
north and south about twenty miles apart 
and known as the Eastern Dorsal and the 
Western Dorsal. It was in the half-desert, 
half-mountain region of the lower chest 
and waist, where bleak, rocky mountains, 
or djebels, rise straight from barren plains, 
a region that reminded Americans of Ari- 
zona and New Mexico, that the U.S. Army 
began the war against Germany. 

Part of the Satin plan, a II Corps rush 
to the coast to seize Gabes, thereby cutting 
Rommel's line of communications from 
northern Tunisia, was changed late in Jan- 
uary. General Eisenhower decided, after 
talks with General Sir Alan Brooke and 
General Sir Harold R. L. G. Alexander at 
the Casablanca Conference, to keep II 
Corps in mobile reserve in the Tebessa 
area, conducting only limited operations 
and building up strength to attack when 
the British Eighth Army caught up with 



Rommel on the southern border of Tunisia. 
At the time this decision was made General 
von Arnim began to attack the Eastern 
Dorsal passes, which were lightly held by 
the French 19th Corps, and Rommel's rear 
guard began to arrive in Tunisia. By 26 
January the enemy was so strong at the 
mountain passes and so determined to keep 
the eastern coastal plains from Tunis to 
Tripoli open for a joining of Rommel's and 
General von Arnim's forces that the Allies 
had to give up any thought of an immedi- 
ate breakthrough to Gabes. They had all 
they could do to plug the gaps in the moun- 
tains between Tebessa and the coast. 1 

Railroads, macadam roads, and camel 
trails converged at the ancient Algerian 
border city of Tebessa, which is encircled 
by tall remnants of a golden-stoned wall 
built when the Romans held North Africa. 
A narrow-gauge railroad came south 
through Algeria and then turned north; at 
Hai'dra it connected with a railroad south- 
east to Kasserine, a junction from which 
rails ran east to the coast. Several highways 
curved north through Hai'dra and Thala. 
One turned south toward the desert, wind- 
ing its way past a gendarme's post, Bou 
Chebka, on the border, passing through a 



*(i) II Corps Opns Rpt Tunisia, i Jan-15 
Mar 43, 202-0.3. ( 2 ) Eisenhower, Crusade in 
Europe, p. 140. (3) Howe, Northwest Africa, pp. 
373 _ 83. Howe's volume has been relied upon 
throughout this chapter. 



WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 



129 



beautiful forest of fir trees — the only forest 
in that part of Tunisia — and descending 
onto a flat plain to reach the tiny French- 
Arab town of Thelepte, which is sur- 
rounded by Roman ruins. Here the road 
branched; the left fork led to the coastal 
city of Sousse via Kasserine and Sbeitla; the 
right to Gabes via Feriana and Gafsa. 

An oasis town of tall palms, flowering 
gardens, and pink and white buildings, 
about eighty miles south of Tebessa, Gafsa 
is less than three hours' ride by automobile 
from Gabes and was the logical take-off 
point for a breakthrough to the coast. In 
mid-January, when the Ordnance troops 
came to central Tunisia, Gafsa was the 
headquarters of the French-American 
Tunisian Task Force, composed of a de- 
tachment of the French Algiers Division, 
some French irregulars, and "Raff's Army" 
of U.S. paratroopers, infantrymen, and 
tank destroyers. The force had recently 
been built up to about 4,000 men, and 
Allied Force Headquarters had given it a 
few pieces of artillery and some antiaircraft 
guns, but it was still seriously short of 
weapons. The French were equipped 
with thin armor, mule-drawn carts, and 
ancient trucks, all that the Axis Armistice 
Commission had left them. Late in De- 
cember Colonel Raff had received from 
AFHQ and turned over to the French a 
company of American M5 light "Honey" 
tanks (Company A, 70th Tank Battalion, 
Light), but after an encounter with Ger- 
man antitank guns at Pichon and long 
hours in combat without maintenance, the 
Honevs were of little use. 2 



2 (0 Raff, We Jumped to Fight, pp. 66, 163, 
190. (2) Memo, Ford for Niblo, 4 Jan 43. (3) 
Ltr. Comdr 42d Maint and Supply Bn to Ord 



By 20 January, when General Freden- 
dall set up II Corps headquarters on a 
pine- wood ridge just south of Tebessa, 
more than 1,300 Ordnance troops had 
arrived in central Tunisia. 3 From north- 
ern Tunisia, Niblo had brought the bulk 
of the 1 st Battalion, 55th Ordnance Heavy 
Maintenance Regiment (Q), now redesig- 
nated the 1 88th Ordnance Heavy Mainte- 
nance Battalion (Q), 4 and from Oran, 
along with the Provisional Ordnance 
Group headquarters, the headquarters of 
the 42 d Maintenance and Supply Bat- 
talion, which had just arrived from the 
LTnited States. He also brought from 
Oran another ammunition company, the 
66th, another medium automotive mainte- 
nance company, the 3485th, and a medium 
weapons maintenance company, the 109th. 5 

Under the 42d Battalion, his heavy bat- 
talion, Niblo placed the 30th Ordnance 
Heavy Maintenance Tank Company, which 
set up shop in the woods at Bou Chebka; the 
78th Ordnance Depot Company, which 
parked its big vans and spread its dump 
near Ai'n Beida, a few miles northwest of 
Tebessa on the road to Constantine; and 
the two ammunition companies, the 53d 
and 66th, which established the main am- 
munition depot at Tebessa and ammuni- 
tion supply points at Feriana, Sbeitla, and 
Maktar. Under the 188th Battalion, 
Niblo assembled three medium mainte- 
nance companies, the 3485th and 3488th 
for automotive work and the 109th for 

Officer II Army Corps, 25 Jan 43, sub: A Com- 
pany, 70th Tank Battalion. Last two in II Corps 
Ord Sec, Misc Corres, KCRC. 

3 Journal of Events, 1-20-43 to 1-25-43, H 
Corps Ord Sec, KCRC. 

4 Redesignated by War Department letter in- 
dorsed to II Corps 8 January 1943. 

5 Special Orders n and 14, II Corps Ord Sec 
Special Orders 1 to 65, 1943, KCRC. 



130 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




Antiquated French Equipment on Railroad Cars at Tebessa 



weapons. Primarily for truck and anti- 
aircraft repairs, this light battalion was 
strung out from Tebessa to Gafsa and from 
Tebessa to Maktar, with detachments at 
the airfields at Thelepte and Feriana. All 
maintenance units sent out contact parties 
daily or weekly to the combat and service 
elements in central Tunisia. Constant 
road patrols were not possible because there 
were not enough trucks. 6 

The equipment of the two Ordnance 
battalions left something to be desired, for 



9 (i) Ord Serv Tunisian Campaign, p. 5. (2) 
Hq 42c! Ord M&S Bn, Maintenance Memorandum 
No. 3, 24 Jan 43. (3) Hq II Corps Admin Order 
No. 6, 26 Jan 43, II Corps Ord Sec, 31 9.1, KCRC. 
The 14th Medium Maintenance Company at that 
time was still under the control of British First 
Army. Ltr, 1st Lt Fred W. Winokur to Col Niblo, 
9 Feb 43, sub: Conflict in Orders, and 1st Ind, 
16 Feb 43, II Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. 



most of it had been furnished under old 
tables of organization and equipment writ- 
ten before Ordnance was made responsible 
for motor vehicles. The 78th Ordnance 
Depot Company, for example, had been 
designed and equipped as a semimobile 
company to stock "old Ordnance" supplies 
for an army, with the bulk of the stock 
under canvas or in a warehouse and the 
vans used only to establish forward supply 
points. Now, swamped with demands for 
truck parts and assemblies in the forward 
areas, the depot company was practically 
immobilized and yet had no canvas to pro- 
tect its stocks nor any barbed wire for 
fences. The maintenance men also needed 
lightproof and weatherproof shop tents and 
were woefully short of shop trucks. Before 
leaving Constantine for the front, Colonel 
Niblo had appealed to Colonel Ford to 



WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 



131 




Ammunition Stored Under Trees Near Sbeitla 



send more shop trucks, pointing out that 
he was short three for welding, eight for 
tank maintenance, eight for automotive re- 
pair, and one for instrument repair, adding 
forcefully, "there are not enough red stars 
or red stripes for me to put on this letter." 
He had received only a few shop trucks 
and some of these were not completely 
equipped. 7 



7 Ltrs, Niblo to Ordnance Officer AFHQ, 14 
Jan 43, sub: Urgent Extraordinary Requirements 
and 16 Feb 43, sub: Estimate of Ordnance Situa- 
tion in II Corps (hereafter cited as Niblo Ltr of 
16 Feb 43) ; Ltr, Capt John B. Scott to Ord Officer 
II Corps, 5 Feb 43, sub: Operational Requirements 
of the 78th Ord Co (D), and 1st Ind; Memo, 



From the beginning, the Provisional 
Ordnance Group had to support a long 
and very fluid front. General Anderson, 
to whose British First Army the U.S. II 
Corps was attached on 24 January, sent 
U.S. tanks and infantry on long treks from 
one mountain pass to another in an 
attempt to stop German jabs at the Eastern 
Dorsal from Fondouk and Fai'd in the 
north to Maknassy in the south. These 
"long pointless forays," as the commander 
of Combat Command B called them, 8 were 

1 st Lt Warren H. Spear for Rose, 7 Feb 43. All 
in II Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. 

8 Robinett Interv. General Robinett commanded 
Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division. 



132 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



hard on tanks. The first job of the 42c! 
Battalion was to supply the 1st Armored 
Division's organic maintenance battalion 
with engines and tracks for Combat Com- 
mand B's aging tanks, which were being 
brought into the woods near Bou Chebka 
for refitting after having fought hard and 
traveled over long distances since their 
arrival in North Africa. 9 

The second job was to provide enough 
cargo trucks to bring supplies from Con- 
stantine to Tebessa. By 23 January seven- 
ty-five cargo trucks were urgently needed 
for immediate replacement of actual losses. 
Road transportation was vital since the 
narrow-gauge railroad that ran south to 
Tebessa from Ouled Rahmoun (the main 
line station south of Constantine) could 
bring in only about a third of the daily 
tonnage needed by II Corps. The loss of 
a single truck seemed to planners at 
AFHQ "almost a tragedy." 10 

On 25 January, after the Casablanca 
Conference, General Eisenhower told Gen- 
erals Marshall and Somervell, then in 
Algiers, of the desperate need for more 
trucks and the requirement for tank trans- 
porters to save the tanks' tracks from the 
damage inflicted by the long drag over the 
mountains. General Somervell cabled to 
Washington for 5,000 2/2-ton trucks 
(1,500 on wheels), 400 1 /2-ton trucks 
(200 on wheels), 72 tank transporters, 
2,000 trailers, and rolling stock. By al- 
most superhuman effort, this enormous 



9 ( 1 ) George F. Howe, The Battle History of 
the 1 st Armored Division (Washington: Combat 
Forces Press, 1954), p. 116. (2) Memo, Lt Col 
H. Y. Grubbs for Col Niblo, 9 Jan 43, II Corps 
Ord Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. 

10 ( 1 ) Memo, Medaris for ACofS G-4, 23 Jan 
43, II Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. (2) 
Truscott, Command Missions, p. 128. 



shipment was assembled and sailed on 15 
February; it reached the theater in early 
March. In the meantime, according to 
General Truscott, supply became "the ab- 
sorbing problem in every headquarters in 
North Africa." n 

The Supply Crisis 

Taking stock at the end of January, 
Colonel Niblo found in the II Corps area, 
or en route to it, only 35 spare tanks, of 
which 20 were light M3's; 57, including 
32 mediums, had been requisitioned. 
Trucks of all kinds, not only the 2/2-ton 
cargo trucks, but weapons carriers and 
jeeps, were desperately short. Also badly- 
needed were more binoculars and more 
antiaircraft machine guns and mounts to 
place on tank destroyers and vehicles. 
The Allies had discovered that the Ger- 
mans would strafe a single truck and repeat 
the strafing if the fire was not returned. 
The most serious parts shortages were those 
for the 90-mm. and 40-mm. antiaircraft 
guns, 155-mm. howitzers, carbines, and, 
above all, parts for trucks. 12 

Early in February the automotive spare 
parts shortage became acute. Colonel Niblo 
warned Colonel Crawford, AFHQ Ord- 
nance officer, that unless drastic action was 
taken at once to obtain parts for the 6,000 
or so trucks carrying ammunition, weapons, 



11 (1) Minutes of Conference Held at 3:00 P.M. 
Hotel St. George by General Somervell, Jan 25. 
1943, ASF Planning Div, Theater Br 20 Gen, vol. 
II. (2) Bykofsky and Larson, The Transportation 
Corps: Operations Overseas, pp. 165-66. (3) 
Truscott, Command Missions, p. 128. 

12 ( 1 ) Troop Organization, Ordnance Units II 
Corps, 27 Jan 43, II Corps Ord Sec 31 9.1. 
KCRC. (2) Memo, Lt Col J. B. Medaris for 
ACofS, G-4, 23 Jan 43, II Corps Ord Sec Misc 
Corres, KCRC. (3) Heavey Notes. (4) Interv with 
Col Niblo, 2 Jan 43. 



WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 



133 




Strafed Supply Truck, Tunisia 



fuel, food, and other supplies along the 
front, the tactical situation would be seri- 
ously affected. Of the trucks in the 
Tebessa region, 95 percent needed repairs 
in some degree, and the parts bins of the 
3485th Ordnance Medium Automotive 
Maintenance Company were almost empty. 
Many of the vehicles were badly in need of 
fourth echelon overhaul, having been 
driven more than 15,000 miles without 
adequate first, second, or third echelon 
service, and thousands were headed for 
deadline within two or three weeks unless 
help came from the base. 13 

The boxed lots of spare parts sent under 



13 (1) Niblo Ltr, 16 Feb 43. (2) Memo, Capt 
Joseph M. Montgomery, 3485th Ordnance MM Co 
(Q) for CO POG, 18 Feb 45. II Corps Ord Sec 
Misc Corres, KCRC. 



the automatic supply system, each lot 
theoretically furnishing enough parts for 
1 00 vehicles for a year, contained too many 
parts of some kinds and not enough of 
others. Those most needed in Tunisia as 
in other theaters were simple, fast-moving 
items such as spark plugs, nuts, bolts, head- 
light bulbs, tire patches, and carburetors. 
Another crying need was for engines. In 
the boxed set of parts for 1 00 vehicles, only 
18 were furnished; experience showed that 
30 would have better filled the need. Re- 
serve engines had to be on hand to replace 
those taken out for overhaul, otherwise the 
trucks would be deadlined. Not only en- 
gines, but clutches, generators, starters, and 
other complete units were needed to a de- 
gree unusual for front-line maintenance. 
This abnormal demand developed because 



134 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



adequate base shop facilities had not yet 
been established. 14 

"Miracles of Maintenance" 

For prompt and adequate fourth echelon 
maintenance behind the front, Colonel 
Niblo wanted a heavy maintenance com- 
pany at Constantine and on 5 January 
found suitable buildings for a shop and 
warehouse. By the end of January the 
headquarters of the 5th Ordnance Bat- 
talion (Maintenance), relieved from the 
POG and attached to the Mediterranean 
Base Section, had arrived along with the 
45th Ordnance Medium Maintenance 
Company and one company of the 67th 
Ordnance Battalion (Q), but neither com- 
pany was trained in heavy maintenance 
and both lacked fourth echelon tools and 
equipment. In these early days, little or 
no fourth echelon work was being done at 
Oran, as the condition of some of the 
trucks and tanks forwarded from there 
showed. Out of 58 trucks received from 
MBS early in February, 50 had to be 
worked on by automotive maintenance 
men before they could be delivered to the 
users. 15 

Lacking both spare parts and support 
from the rear, American resourcefulness at 
the front accomplished results that one Ord- 



14 (1) Ltrs, Crawford to Campbell, 3 Mar 43. 
and to Lt Col G. H. Olmstead, 26 Feb 43. (2) 
Memo, Capt D. D. Harwood for Maj F. P. 
Leamy. All in Tank-Automotive Spare Parts Policy 
Documents, World War II, OHF. (3) Ltr, Niblo 
to Ord Officer, AFHQ, 14 Jan 43. (4) Rpt, Maj 
Sills and Mr. Gay, Trip to North African Theater, 
January 20-February 27, 1943, in Truman Com- 
mittee File, OHF. 

15 (1) Niblo Ltr, 16 Feb 43. (2) History Hq 
5th Ordnance Bn, pp. 3-4, II Corps Ord Sec, 
KCRC. 



nance officer called "miracles of mainte- 
nance." 16 The mechanics manufactured 
parts and even such major items as range 
drums and sight brackets, all of which 
would normally be base shop work — if 
there had been base shops close enough to 
make them quickly. The commanding of- 
ficer of the 3485th Ordnance Medium 
Maintenance Company (Q) estimated 
that half of the work of his company was 
"semi-fourth" echelon. Of the vehicles 
serviced by the 3488th Ordnance Medium 
Maintenance Company (Q), 20 percent 
would have been deadlined if the company 
had not performed fourth echelon repairs, 
including such difficult jobs as crankshaft 
replacements. 17 

Wrecks brought into the shops were can- 
nibalized. This expedient, normally re- 
served for nonrepairable items, was per- 
mitted by Colonel Niblo in the spare parts 
crisis of early February on repairable items 
that would have had to be evacuated to a 
higher echelon. The solution was uneco- 
nomical and did not really solve the prob- 
lem since, for example, there was only one 
set of bearings on each salvaged truck, 
and ten trucks might be waiting for bear- 
ings. But it was the only way to get parts. 
Capt. Joseph M. Montgomery of the 
3488th reported that the authority to sal- 
vage vehicles and reclaim the parts had been 
the deciding factor in keeping the trucks 



16 Ltr, Maj George T. Petersen to Gen Camp- 
bell, 28 Jun 43, Campbell Overseas file. 

17 ( 1 ) Ltrs, Petersen to Campbell, 28 Jun 43. 
and Brig Gen John A. Crane to CO 1 88th Ord 
Bn, 12 May 43, sub: Commendation, both in 
Campbell Overseas file. (2) Memo, Montgomery 
for CO Hqs POG, 18 Feb 43, and Ltr, Lt Col 
John F. Moffitt to CO 3488th Ord Medium 
Maint Co (Q), 15 Feb 43, sub: Fourth Echelon 
Repairs on Vehicles and 1st Ind, both in II Corps 
Ord Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. 



WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 



135 



rolling; 75 percent of the jobs completed 
by his company were made possible by 
cannibalization. 18 

Up in the mountain passes, detachments 
of the 1 st Armored Division's maintenance 
battalion also stripped many wrecked 
items to make up for the shortage of weap- 
ons spare parts — making one good gun out 
of two unusable ones. In devising ma- 
chine gun mounts for vehicles, always a 
pressing problem, the men used whatever 
they could find on the battlefield; one 
mount was made out of the aluminum land- 
ing gear of a Junkers 88 that had been shot 
down. The barrel of a 37-mm. gun taken 
out of a wrecked P-39 formed the axle for 
a makeshift trailer and a disabled truck 
provided the wheels. 19 

In the shop areas as well as in the com- 
bat zone men worked in helmets and had to 
take to slit trenches when German dive 
bombers came over. On the road, supply 
trains and small service parties learned to 
shift for themselves. They carried C ra- 
tions in their trucks and cooked them on a 
"desert stove" made by digging a small 
hole, filling it half full of water, and pour- 
ing on top a small quantity of gasoline, 
thus providing "a good, hot fire capable of 
cooking almost anything." If there was no 
opportunity to stop and cook, the men ate 
their rations cold or wired them on the 
exhaust manifold of the engine, heating 
them on the run. For cooking, drinking, 
and washing, they carried 5-gallon water 
cans, two or three to a vehicle. Ordnance 



mechanics doing contact work spent more 
than half their time on the highway, cover- 
ing hundreds of miles. These men were 
therefore not available for work in the shop 
areas, where the task of supporting French 
and American forces that were strung out 
over the long front was becoming increas- 
ingly harder. 20 

On 30 January the enemy took Fai'd 
Pass in the Eastern Dorsal and on 4 Feb- 
ruary Rommel crossed the Tunisian fron- 
tier. His first aim was to break up the 
American forces in central Tunisia, because 
he believed that the greatest danger to 
his Tunisian bridgehead would be an 
American offensive from Gafsa through to 
Gabes. If such an attack were successful it 
would separate him from von Arnim. 

The Germans divided their offensive 
forces into two prongs, sending one to Faid, 
breaking through the pass on 14 February, 
and another prong up the Gabes-Gafsa 
road. 21 

On both flanks the Americans began to 
pull back to the Western Dorsal, evacua- 
ting Gafsa and Sbe'i'tla. On the night Gafsa 
was evacuated in rain and blackout over a 
narrow road choked, as an observer re- 
ported, "bumper to bumper, from head to 
tail with tanks, artillery, infantry, French 
Legionnaires, camels, goats, sheep, Arab and 
French families with crying children, jack- 
asses and horse-drawn carts," an Ordnance 
detachment brought up the rear, pulling 
tanks and vehicles out of ditches. At 
Sbe'itla the last men to get out of town were 



18 Memo, Niblo to CO's 420! Ord Maint and Sup- 
ply Bn and 1 88th Ord Medium Maint Bn, 2 Feb 43, 
and Memo, Montgomery for CO Hq POG II Corps, 
18 Feb 43, both in II Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres, 
KCRC. 

"Hist Ord Serv MTO, ch. I, p. 19, OHF. 



20 ( 1 ) Schwartz, The Field Operations of a 
Maintenance Battalion, p. 6, OHF. (2) Niblo Ltr. 
16 Feb 43. 

21 Liddell-Hart, The Rommel Papers, pp. 397- 
407. 



136 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



two Ordnance officers who were firing the 
ammunition dump. 22 

Rommel occupied Gafsa and Feriana 
and on 17 February overran Kasserine 
Pass in the Western Dorsal. He caused 
appalling losses in American men and 
equipment, but achieved no lasting victory. 
By 1 7 February the Americans had brought 
up the 9th and 34th Infantry Divisions 
from Oran and Casablanca, and the British 
had sent their 26th Armoured Brigade from 
northern Tunisia. After five days of hard 
fighting, Rommel was forced to withdraw 
to the coastal plain. 

Niblo Leaves II Corps 

In the midst of the German break- 
through Ordnance service was undergo- 
ing a crisis of its own. Colonel Niblo in a 
forceful letter to Colonel Crawford on 16 
February had pointed out the inadequate 
Ordnance support from the rear at Con- 
stantine and Oran; the deterioration of the 
trucks and tanks at the front; the dearth of 
spare parts; and the impossibility of ex- 
pecting the Ordnance troops in the field 
without enough tools, time, or men to do 
the whole job of keeping the combat men 
armed and mobile. He concluded bluntly, 
"we do not have any Ordnance policy for 
the operation of Ordnance service in North 
Africa." 23 

The rush of events in those early days of 
1943 had indeed created a tangle in policy 
and administration. The Ordnance or- 
ganization had been cut to fit II Corps on 



22 ( 1 ) Lt. Col. W. C. Farmer, "Ordnance on the 
Battlefield," Army Ordnance, XXVII (September- 
October, 1944), p. 297. (2) Capt William G. 
Meade, "Oran to Naples; The Story of an Am- 
munition Job Well Done," Army Ordnance, XXIX, 
152 (September-October, 1945), p. 263. 

23 Niblo Ltr, 16 Feb 43. 



its arrival in North Africa in November as 
an independent reinforced corps (Center 
Task Force). Much had happened since 
then. Fifth Army was organized in North 
Africa on 4 January 1943, under Maj. Gen. 
Mark W. Clark. On 5 January II Corps 
was assigned to Fifth Army and thus in 
theory reverted to a typical corps, a tactical 
unit only; but in fact it continued to be a 
reinforced corps since it remained the major 
U.S. ground force combat unit in Tunisia. 
General Clark, at the suggestion of Gen- 
eral Marshall, turned over the field com- 
mand in Tunisia to the II Corps com- 
mander, General Fredendall, and remained 
at his Oujda (French Morocco) head- 
quarters, planning and training for later 
operations. Thus the Provisional Ord- 
nance Group — for a short time renamed the 
Provisional Ordnance Regiment (Field) — 
remained in much the same situation as be- 
fore. Though it was theoretically under 
army, it was assigned to II Corps on 15 
January. 24 

On 24 January, at a time when Amer- 
ican forces had to rush in to close the gaps 
in the front made by small but determined 
German attacks against the weak French 
forces, General Eisenhower attached II 
Corps to the British First Army. He also 
attached to the British First Army the 
French forces, which along with Raff Force 
had been operating directly under AFHQ. 
This was the rather hazy situation when II 
Corps set up headquarters in the Tebessa 
area on 20 January. As commander of the 
only U.S. Ordnance organization in central 
Tunisia, Niblo, who was always inclined to 



24 ( 1 ) Interoffice Communication, Ord Officer 
II Corps for CofS II Corps, 28 Jan 43, and 3d 
Ind, Hq II Corps to CG Fifth Army, 29 Jan 43. 
Both in II Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. (2) 
Clark, Calculated Risk, pp. 140-41. 



WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 



137 



be generous with Ordnance support, sent 
out contact parties to U.S. tank and tank 
destroyer battalions attached to the French 
and supplied the French Ordnance squad- 
ron. Realizing that he was providing serv- 
ice on an army scale, which II Corps was 
"more or less directed by AFHQ" to do, 
he appealed to II Corps for a clear state- 
ment of policy, for an enlarged headquar- 
ters staff, and for permission to operate 
"under general control of the Army Com- 
mander." 25 

The outcome was a II Corps command 
decision that Ordnance maintenance serv- 
ice "until further administrative instruc- 
tions are received from higher headquar- 
ters" would be furnished for "all U.S. 
forces within the physical boundaries of the 
II Corps and for all U.S. materiel in the 
hands of the French within the same geo- 
graphical boundaries" — that is, within a 
line on the north running through Thala- 
Kairouan-Sousse, on the south running 
cast and west approximately twenty-five 
miles south of Gabes ( the line of demarka- 
tion between II Corps and the British 
Eighth Army), and to the rear running- 
north and south through Tebessa. 2G On 
the question of policy, General Fredendall 
sent word by his G-4 that he wanted Ord- 
nance service continued as a corps function 
by corps troops "exactly as it is now being 
done." 2T These orders were ambiguous, be- 



25 ( 1 ) Interoffice Communication, Ord Officer 
II Corps for CofS II Corps, 28 Jan 43, and 3d 
Ind, Hq II Corps to CG Fifth Army, 29 Jan 43. 
Both in II Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. 
(2) Hq 42d M&S Bn, Maintenance Memo No. 3. 
24 Jan 43, II Corps Ord Sec 319.1, KCRC. 

26 Memo, Ord Officer II Corps for Exec POG. 
30 Jan 43, 1 st Ind, 30 Jan 43, and 2d Ind, 31 
Jan 43, II Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. 

27 Memo, Col Robert W. Wilson, G-4 of II 
Corps, for Col Niblo, 31 Jan 43, II Corps Ord 
Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. 



cause contact parties had been accustomed 
to servicing all American units they found 
whether attached to II Corps or not; also, 
the command decision did not expressly 
forbid contacting and servicing units out- 
side the area. 28 

Niblo continued his effort to support the 
Raff Force and other American units at- 
tached to the French, but found it increas- 
ingly difficult. A request for ammunition 
for some pack howitzers that had been 
turned over to the French was refused by 
the Mediterranean Base Section on the 
ground that a directive from AFHQ was 
necessary; and an urgent appeal to the II 
Corps chief of staff for parts for the badly 
crippled Honey tanks of Company A, 70th 
Tank Battalion, attached to the French 
Algiers Division at the front — "if this com- 
pany is subject to control by II Corps" — 
went unanswered. Citing his futile attempts 
to furnish Ordnance service to the tank 
company, Niblo on 12 February again ap- 
pealed for a clarification of policy, this 
time to Colonel Crawford at AFHQ, stat- 
ing his conviction "that boundary lines of 
various Corps do not figure in the normal 
Army Ordnance supply and maintenance 
of Army Combat troops which are assigned 
or attached to the various Corps from time 
to time." 29 

Less than a week after this letter was 
written, General Fredendall relieved Niblo 



28 1st Ind to Memo, Ord Officer II Corps for 
Exec POG, 30 Jan 43, and Memo, Rose for Niblo, 
4 Feb 43. Both in II Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres, 
KCRC. 

"Ltr, Capt Lee V. Graham, Jr. to CO MBS 
(Constantine), 24 Jan 43, sub: Ammunition for 
75-mm. Pack Howitzers, and 1st Ind, 7 Feb 43; 
1 st Wrapper Ind, Niblo to Ord Officer AFHQ, 12 
Feb 43, and Incl #2; Ltr, Niblo to CofS, Hq II 
Corps, 26 Jan 43, sub: Equipment of Company A, 
70th Tank Battalion. All in II Corps Ord Sec, 
Misc Corres, KCRC 



138 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



as Ordnance officer of II Corps. The rea- 
son, according to the impressions of men in 
the field, was that Niblo had been extending 
his services to Raff and the French forces. 30 
Fredendall had little confidence in the 
French — a feeling shared by many British 
and Americans; and he may have felt that 
II Corps had all it could do to take care of 
itself, the supply situation being what it was 
over a long and overextended front. On 
the other hand, he probably never saw with 
his own eyes the wretched condition of the 
battered U.S. light tanks attached to the 
French or the frustration of men who were 
denied the weapons they needed to fight 
with. When the American Grant and 
Sherman tanks of the ist Armored Division 
arrived in central Tunisia, the men of Raff 
Force, according to their commander, 
"stood at the Thelepte road junction watch- 
ing the tanks as children do fire engines." 31 
Instead of visiting the front, Fredendall re- 
mained most of the time at his headquarters 
in a deep ravine east of Tebessa. There 
was a widespread feeling among subordi- 
nate commanders and staffs that he never 
understood the situation as it was known to 
the troops in the field. 32 

Colonel Niblo left II Corps on 17 Feb- 
ruary and went to Fifth Army, where he 
succeeded Colonel Ford as General Clark's 
Ordnance officer. His successor at II 
Corps was Lt. Col. John B. Medaris, who 
had been his assistant for some time. A 
few days later an important change oc- 
curred at the top. The 18 Army Group 
under General Alexander was established to 
co-ordinate the British First and Eighth 
Armies, the U.S. II Corps, and the French 



19th Corps. Alexander's first act, in the 
words of Maj. Gen. Omar N. Bradley who 
was then acting as Eisenhower's special 
representative at the front, was "to un- 
scramble the chaotic commitment of units 
on Anderson's front." 33 The forces of 
each nation were concentrated under the 
nation's own command and given their 
own sectors. The U.S. II Corps, formerly 
attached to British First Army, early in 
March came directly under 18 Army 
Group, in a position parallel to the British 
First and British Eighth Armies. 

Supporting the Thrust Through 
Gafsa 

Colonel Medaris, the new Ordnance of- 
ficer, had a big job on his hands. The Ger- 
man attack at Kasserine had swept away 
hundreds of tanks, trucks, and weapons — 
most of the 183 tanks, 194 half-track per- 
sonnel carriers, 122 pieces of self-propelled 
artillery, 86 artillery pieces, 213 machine 
guns, and 512 trucks and jeeps that II 
Corps lost between 2 1 January and 2 1 Feb- 
ruary. For some items the losses were 
greater than the combined stocks of the 
Atlantic and Mediterranean Base Sec- 
tions. 34 Replacements were urgently 
needed, for Maj. Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., 
who succeeded General Fredendall as com- 
manding general of II Corps on 6 March, 
had orders for a new offensive through 
Gafsa and Maknassy to be launched during 
the third week in March. The offensive, 
conceived by General Alexander, was timed 
to coincide with the Eighth Army's arrival 
at the Mareth Line and was intended to 



'"Crawford Interv. 

31 Raff, IV e Jumped to Fight, p. 193. 

12 Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 145-46. 



Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 36. 

Ord Serv Tunisian Campaign, pp. 8-9. 



WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 



139 




Tiger Tank Captured in Tunisia 



help General Montgomery by threatening 
one of the German flanks. 

In planning for the offensive, Eisenhower 
instructed Patton to study the lessons al- 
ready learned in Tunisia. One of the most 
important was how to deal with German 
land mines — the. bounding antipersonnel 
mine and the big plate-shaped Teller anti- 
tank mine, twice as heavy as the American 
and British mine. The Germans had used 
mines lavishly and the British Eighth Army 
had learned what they could do in the 
great tank battles in Egypt and Libya; the 
Americans now saw how effective they were 
in guarding the mountain passes in Tunisia. 
For their own defenses at Kasserine, II 
Corps had had to bring to the front all the 



antitank mines that were available in Casa- 
blanca and Oran; 20,000 were flown to the 
most forward airfield, Youks-les-Bains, in 
fifty-two planeloads. 35 

In some respects there were sobering 
comparisons between U.S. and German 
equipment. American tankers first encoun- 
tered German armor in northern Tunisia 
on 26 November 1942, when several 1st 
Armored Division companies of M3 Stuart 
tanks ambushed a small German force of 
six Pzkw IV Specials with long, high-veloci- 
ty 75-mm. guns and three or more Pzkw 



35 ( 1 ) History Ord Service MTO, ch. II, p. 7 and 
ch. VII, p. 2. (2) Ord Serv Tunisian Campaign, 
p. 7. (3) Green, Thomson, and Roots, Planning 
Munitions for War, pp. 380-87. 



140 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Ill's with the long 50-mm. guns. Swarm- 
ing around the German tanks, the Stuarts 
with their 37-mm. guns firing on flank and 
rear at close range managed to knock out all 
the Pzkw IV's and one of the Ill's. How- 
ever, this was a victory of superior numbers 
rather than superiority of materiel. As in 
the Western Desert, the Pzkw IV Specials 
outgunned not only the little Stuarts but also 
the Shermans. During the German attack 
in the Pont-du-Fahs area in mid- January 
1943, British antitank guns disabled and 
captured a tank more powerful than the 
Pzkw IV Special — the low-silhouette, thick- 
skinned Pzkw VI Tiger, armed with an 88- 
mm. gun. It was not used at Kasserine. 
General von Arnim had only nineteen, sent 
to him in November for combat-testing, and 
he refused to release any of them to Rom- 
mel. The Tigers were still full of bugs and 
had an inadequate engine. Their greatest 
threat was their armament. The troops in 
Tunisia had already learned to recognize 
and respect the whip crack of the 88-mm. 
gun. 36 On the credit side for U.S. equip- 
ment at Xasserine was the artillery, which 
put a great number of Rommel's tanks out of 
action, astonishing his panzer division by its 
accurate and rapid fire. Some of the cap- 
tured Germans asked to see the American 
155-mm. "automatic cannon." 37 On the 
whole, Rommel considered the Americans 
"fantastically well equipped" and con- 



36 (1) The Rommel Papers, p. 406. (2) Brig 
Gen Gordon C. Wells, Report of Observations in 
the Mediterranean Theater, MTO Ord Sec 31 9.1 
Reports General, KCRC. (3) For characteristics 
of the Pzkw VI Tiger, see U.S. Army Ordnance 
School text, Tank Data (July 1958), p. 57, 
OCMH. The model encountered in Tunisia early 
in 1943 was the Pzkw VI (H), developed by 
Henschel & Sohn. MS, Achtung Panzer, p. 84, 
Jarrett Collection. 

"Hist Ord EBS, p. 13. 



eluded that the Germans "had a lot to 
learn from them organisationally." 38 

After Kasserine, Ordnance at the front 
profited greatly from better organization in 
the rear. Ordnance officers at AFHQ and 
SOS quickly dispatched from Casablanca, 
by every available means of transportation, 
the weapons and tanks of the 1 Armored 
Corps and other Fifth Army units. Trucks 
came from Casablanca and Oran assembly 
lines, and the thousands of wheeled trucks 
Somervell shipped from the United States 
arrived in the special convoy on 6-7 March. 
By 15 March the shortages in trucks, tanks, 
artillery, and machine guns had been made 
up. 39 

Tanks were arriving in better condition 
because the Mediterranean Base Section 
shops at Oran, operating more smoothly 
than before, rigidly processed the tanks as 
they came into the port, fully kitted them, 
and shipped them by coaster or tank land- 
ing vessels to Philippeville, where they were 
driven overland to the bivouac of the 30th 
Ordnance Company near Youks-les-Bains. 
Early in March there was organized at 
MBS the 2622d Ordnance Tank Trans- 
porter Company — the first company of its 
kind in the U.S. Army. With its sixty 
trailers the company could lift a battalion 
of medium tanks and six spares in one 
move, delivering them over long distances 
that would otherwise materially have 
shortened their serviceable lives. The first 
week in April, two platoons were able to 
take on the task of moving tanks and self- 
propelled artillery south from Philippe- 
ville. 40 



38 The Rommel Papers, pp. 404-07. 

30 ( 1 ) Crawford Interv. (2) Ord Serv Tunisian 
Campaign, p. 12, and Incl, Materiel Status Report, 
II Corps and Attached Units, 15 Mar 43, OHF. 

40 (1) Ltrs, Crawford to Campbell, 3 Mar 43, 



WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 



141 



Arriving at Constantine in mid-February 
and inheriting the small 5th Ordnance Bat- 
talion (Maintenance) stationed there, Col. 
Ward E. Becker, Ordnance officer of East- 
ern Base Section, found that he not only 
had base section responsibilities but also had 
to furnish support to II Corps that would 
have been army responsibility if the corps 
had been functioning normally under an 
army instead of as an independent corps. 
This meant pushing units forward. The 
first move was to send the 5th Battalion — 
soon reinforced by several newly arrived 
maintenance companies, one of them the 
heavy automotive type — down to Taxas 
(south of the railhead of Ouled Rahmoun 
and eighty-nine miles from Tebessa on the 
main supply route to II Corps), to keep the 
truck fleet operating and to process new 
armament arriving at Bougie and Philippe- 
ville. The battalion sent detachments to 
the ports and railheads to drive the tanks, 
self-propelled artillery, and trucks to the 
shops, where they processed them, and then 
drove them to II Corps under difficult con- 
ditions of blackout, steady rain, and enemy 
raids. After II Corps advanced to Gafsa, 
Eastern Base Section Ordnance Section 
sent two maintenance companies (one 
armament, one automotive ) to Tebessa and 
also took over the corps depot company 
there and the principal corps and ammuni- 
tion dump. The dump created a serious 
problem, because EBS had received only 
two ammunition companies and both were 
needed to operate the base ammunition 
depot at Ouled Rahmoun, where large 
quantities of ammunition had been arriving 
by rail from the west. Becker solved the 

in Tank-Automotive Spare Parts Policy Documents, 
World War II, OHF. (2) Ltr, same to same, 28 
Mar 43, Campbell Overseas File. (3) Ord Serv 
Tunisian Campaign, p. 13. 



problem by successfully converting a com- 
pany of mechanics into a provisional am- 
munition company. 41 

When the new offensive began, along 
with the spring rains, on 17 March, II 
Corps Ordnance Service had received some 
reinforcement. A new type of heavy main- 
tenance company designed to support a 
field army, the 82d Ordnance Company 
(Heavy Maintenance) (Field Army), was 
assigned to the 42 d Ordnance Battalion to 
operate a heavy machine shop in support of 
corps and divisional artillery. Colonel 
Medaris moved the 42d Battalion, now 
commanded by Maj. John F. Moffitt, 10 
miles east of Tebessa to establish a heavy 
maintenance base and sent the 188th Ord- 
nance Battalion, which now included the 
30th Heavy Maintenance Tank Company 
and was commanded by Maj. George T. 
Petersen, forward with II Corps in the at- 
tack. One medium maintenance company, 
the 14th, which had been brought down 
from northern Tunisia, was sent to Fon- 
douk to support the 34th Division in a 
British-American attempt to break through 
the Eastern Dorsal at that point; the rest 
of the 1 88th Battalion supported the effort 
through Gafsa to draw German forces off 
from the Mareth Line. 42 

The advance was easy at first ; the enemy 
had withdrawn toward the coast. The 
corps took Gafsa and Maknassy without op- 
position and got into El Guettar, a date 



41 (1) Hist Ord EBS, pp. 2-3, 8-13. (2) Ord 
Serv Tunisian Campaign, p. 11. (3) History 5th 
Ord Bn Hq and Hq Det, pp. 4-5, II Corps Ord Sec, 
KCRC. 

42 ( 1 ) Ord Serv Tunisian Campaign, p. 12. (2) 
Ltr, Petersen to Commanding Officers, All Units 
Concerned, 18 Mar 43, sub: Maintenance Re- 
sponsibility, and 2d Ind, Hq 42d Ord M&S Bn to 
CO Prov Ord Gp, II Corps, 1 Mar 43, both in II 
Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. 



142 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



palm oasis on the road to Gabes. Just 
beyond El Guettar, in a region of bleak 
hills and plains covered with short grass, 
the Germans reacted strongly, counterat- 
tacking on 23 March with a panzer division 
including some Tiger tanks, supported by 
the Luftwaffe, which strafed and dive- 
bombed. So strong was the counterattack 
during the week following that Gafsa itself 
was threatened. The 188th Battalion, 
which had followed II Corps headquarters 
into Gafsa on 20 March, was organized for 
defense. One company practiced firing 
105-mm. howitzers, another was made into 
an infantry heavy weapons company, and 
the third was assigned an antitank and in- 
fantry role. A tremendous strain was 
placed on the 53d Ammunition Company's 
dump, manned by only half the company, 
the other half having been left behind with 
the 42d Battalion. On 23-24 March one 
section of the 53d handled an average of 
about 40 tons per man. Fortunately the 
crisis was soon over and the Ordnance 
units did not have to become combat units. 
The Germans had only been fighting a 
skillful guerrilla action in terrain that 
favored them. At the end of March they 
began to pull out. By then the Eighth 
Army had broken the Mareth Line and 
occupied Gabes and by the second week in 
April was sweeping up the coast toward 
northern Tunisia. 43 

The March to Bizerte 

The last battle against the Axis in North 
Africa was to take place in northern Tuni- 
sia. In this battle, planned primarily as a 
British First Army and Eighth Army pincers 

43 (1) Petersen Rpt of 14 Feb 45. (2) Hist 53d 
Ord Amm Co, Jun-Dec 44. (3) Philip Jordan, 
Jordan's Tunis Diary (London, 1943), p. 213. 



operation, General Alexander at first gave 
II Corps a very minor part. The 9th Divi- 
sion was to be assigned to British First Army 
to help the British left flank in the attack 
on Bizerte, and the remainder of II Corps 
was to stage a demonstration at Fondouk 
against the enemy's right rear flank. But 
Maj. Gen. Omar N. Bradley, who had 
been acting as Patton's deputy and was to 
succeed Patton as commander of II Corps 
on 15 April, protested to General Eisen- 
hower that the Americans had earned a 
right to share in the final victory, fighting 
under their own flag. Convinced that 
Bradley was right, Eisenhower insisted that 
II Corps be given a sector on the northern 
front. General Alexander finally decided 
to transfer II Corps across the rear of First 
Army and place it on the northern flank 
facing Bizerte. 44 

The II Corps march across the rear of 
the British First Army took place during 
the week beginning April 10. Supplies 
were shifted north from the central dumps 
near Tebessa in 5,000 trucks, most of them 
furnished by the Eastern Base Section. 
Unable to take main roads for fear of 
blocking British lines of communication, 
the great supply train made the trip in two 
days in a driving rain over secondary 
mountain roads. Ordnance units helped 
move tanks and heavy artillery. From 
Sbei'tla, where the 1st Armored Division 
had been refitting and regrooming for the 
move north, two platoons of the 2622d 
Ordnance Tank Transporter Company, 
supplied with additional tank transporters 
by the British First Army, lifted the tanks 
and carried them 200 miles in two nights 
and a day to the new assembly area. The 

44 ( 1 ) Bradley, A Soldier's Story, pp. 56-59. 
(2) Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 152. 



WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 



143 



big guns of the 13th Field Artillery Bri- 
gade, in serious need of overhaul after 
Kasserine and El Guettar, were repaired 
during halts on the march north by a spe- 
cial detachment of 30 picked mechanics, 
with 10 shop trucks, furnished by the 30th 
Heavy Maintenance Tank Company. 45 

The headquarters of the Provisional Ord- 
nance Group began the 5-day journey by 
motor from Gafsa to Souk el Khemis on 1 3 
April. The general assembly area for 
service troops was near LeCalle and 
Tabarka, on the northern coast road. The 
42d Ordnance Battalion moved to a point 
about ten miles east of Tabarka. The 
1 88th Ordnance Battalion remained be- 
hind at Gafsa until 20 April to assist East- 
ern Base Section in the mammoth job of 
battlefield clearance. The Americans had 
left behind them a 3,000-square-mile area, 
twice fought over, that was littered with 
ammunition, tanks, gasoline and water 
cans, clothing, and all kinds of scrap. Out 
of the 20,544 long tons collected, more 
than half was ammunition. There were 
2,117 tons of badly needed motor parts. 
From wrecked vehicles sent to the salvage 
yard established by EBS at Tebessa, more 
than $200,000 worth of parts was re- 
claimed. 46 

During the El Guettar-Maknassy opera- 
tions Colonel Medaris began to use a new 
type of company that he put together from 
men and equipment of the 188th Battalion, 



45 (0 Dunham MS, pp. 288-90. (2) Ord Serv 
Tunisian Campaign, pp. 14-15. (3) Ltr, Petersen 
to CofOrd, 14 Jun 43, sub: Ordnance General 
Supply, Incl 4, Campbell Overseas File. 

46 (1) Ltr, Medaris to CO, Hq & Hq Det, 
Prov Ord Group, II Corps, 12 Apr 43, sub: Travel 
Orders, II Corps Ord Sec 370.5, KCRC. (2) Ord 
Serv Tunisian Campaign, pp. 11-14. (3) Logistical 
History of N ATOUSA-MTOUSA, 11 August 1942 
to 30 November 1945. pp. 413-14. 



calling it the Provisional Ordnance Collect- 
ing Company. Its job was to go into the 
forward area, whether the actual field of 
battle or ground over which combat troops 
had merely passed, and bring back all the 
Ordnance materiel it could find, Allied or 
enemy. This was a pioneer effort at bat- 
tlefield recovery and evacuation. An 
Ordnance evacuation company (TOE 9- 
187) had been organized in the United 
States in November 1942 but it had not yet 
arrived in the theater; besides, it was 
mainly for evacuating armor from collect- 
ing points to the rear, being equipped with 
tank transporters rather than wreckers and 
trucks. Theoretically, combat troops 
cleaned up the battlefield, bringing dam- 
aged materiel to division or corps collecting 
points where Quartermaster troops picked 
it up, sent it back to depots, and if it was 
repairable turned it over to the technical 
service that had supplied it. 47 

Experience in Tunisia showed that the 
combat troops did not have the time, man- 
power, or equipment to clear the battle- 
field. It took 4-ton and 10-ton wreckers, 
plenty of 2/2 -ton trucks, and men with 
special skills — riggers, tank mechanics, 
welders, and drivers who could handle tank 
transporters and other special vehicles. To 
get these, Medaris robbed the maintenance 
companies of his 188th Battalion, pooling 



47 ( 1 ) Ltr, Medaris to CofOrd, 1 Jun 43, sub: 
Ordnance Service (hereafter cited as Medaris Rpt 
of 1 Jun 43), Incl 1, Ltr, CG II Corps to CinC 
Allied Force, 29 May 43, sub: Facilities for the 
Collecting and Evacuation of Ordnance Materiel, 
O.O. 350.05/3725, copy in OKD 372/9. (2) WD 
Ordnance Field Manual 9-10, 20 Apr 42, and 
Change 3, 15 Apr 44, Recover, and Evacuation of 
Materiel. (3) Ross and Romanus, The Quarter- 
master Corps: Operations in the War Against Ger- 
many, p. 63. (4) First United States Army Report 
of Operations (20 Oct 43-1 Aug 44), Annex 13. 
app. 2, "Operations Division," pp. 84-85. 



144 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



all evacuation and recovery equipment in 
his collecting company. This was hard on 
the maintenance companies, but the col- 
lecting company recovered a tremendous 
amount of supplies that might otherwise 
have been lost, and many of the items were 
promptly returned to service. On one 
occasion the equipment of an entire battery 
of 90-mm. guns, badly shot up by enemy 
artillery, was collected between 1 700 of one 
day and 0600 the next, and taken to an 
Ordnance maintenance company, which 
repaired it and got it ready for action by 
1 600 of the following day. 4S 

Battlefield recovery was dangerous work, 
often performed under fire since early 
arrival at the scene was essential to keep 
the materiel from being cannibalized by 
combat troops, damaged further by enemy 
action, or falling into the hands of the 
enemy. Usually the company operated at 
night, recovering equipment that had been 
knocked out during the day. The men 
had to learn not only how to work in black- 
out conditions, to operate mine detectors 
and remove mines and booby traps, but 
how to scout and patrol and defend them- 
selves with small arms, bayonets, and even 
divisional artillery. Self-reliance and dis- 
cipline were stressed, for these men were 
in a sense the Rangers of Ordnance. Until 
the end of the Tunisia Campaign, they 
operated very successfully within the limits 
of the equipment available to them. Un- 
fortunately, there was never enough equip- 
ment to do a complete job of recovery, 
especially the job of recovering tanks. 49 



48 Medaris Rpt, 1 Jun 43, Incl 1. 

<B (0 History Ord Service MTO, Ch. II, pp. 
IO-II. (2) Ltr, Petersen to Campbell, 28 Jun 43, 
Campbell Overseas File. (3) Maj William C. 
Farmer, "Recovery of Materiel in Combat," The 



Unable to foresee the extent of mine 
damage, the Ordnance Department was 
late in furnishing tractors powerful enough 
to evacuate tanks from the battlefield; in 
March 1943 Colonel Crawford was forced 
to admit, "we were all caught asleep." 
Commanders of 1st Armored Division ele- 
ments had observed on the northern front 
in January that as soon as a German tank 
was knocked out it would simply disappear, 
towed off by another tank or a tank re- 
covery vehicle. Colonel Crawford found 
on his visit to the Middle East in January 
that the British had an effective tractor, 
the Scammell, to snake mine-damaged 
tanks back to roads; at Kasserine it had 
been used to save 68 tanks by a unit of 
Royal Electrical and Mechanical En- 
gineers, the British maintenance agency. 
In the United States the Ordnance Depart- 
ment, on the recommendation of General 
Barnes, had in the fall of 1942 improvised 
a tank recovery vehicle, the T2, by affixing 
a crane to an M3 tank with a low com- 
pression engine, and by March 1943 some 
of them were on their way to the theater 
for the use of the combat troops of the 1st 
Armored Division. There was no pro- 
vision for heavy tractors either in the main- 
tenance battalion of the armored division 
or in the Ordnance heavy tank mainte- 
nance company. Realizing the impor- 
tance of tank recovery, Colonel Crawford 
in mid-February asked for a heavy recovery 
platoon to be used as an adjunct to the 
Ordnance heavy tank maintenance com- 
pany. The 1 st Provisional Ordnance Re- 
covery and Evacuation Platoon arrived in 
the theater in April and on 23 April was 
assigned to the 1 88th Battalion, where its 



Ordnance Sergeant, VII (May 1944), pp. 278- 
81. 



WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 



145 



heavy recovery and tank transporter equip- 
ment was made available to the collecting 
company; but it was by then rather late in 
the Tunisian day. 50 

"The End of the Beginning" 

The final offensive against the Axis 
forces in Tunisia was launched the third 
week in April. It would take ten days of 
the hardest infantry fighting yet encoun- 
tered to defeat them and achieve what 
Winston Churchill called "the end of the 
beginning." 51 The enemy was strongly 
entrenched in a 120-mile arc around the 
northeastern tip of Tunisia, from Enfida- 
ville on the coast around to the rocky 
djebels that stood like fortresses before the 
plains leading to Tunis and Bizerte. 

In the American sector two main roads 
ran through the djebels to Mateur, the 
Germans' main supply base. The north- 
ern and shorter road ran from Djebel 
Abiod through Djefna; the southern began 
at Bedja and skirted the Tine River valley. 
General Bradley placed the 9th Infantry 



50 ( 1 ) Ltr, Col D. J. Crawford to Maj Gen 
Levin H. Campbell, Jr., 3 Mar 43. (2) Memo, 
JWH for Colonel Magruder, 2 Feb 43, sub: Notes 
on Talk by Major General Oliver, ASF Planning 
Div, 20 Gen File, vol. I. (3) MS, Combat Main- 
tenance, Armored Force Library. (4) Ltr, Col D. J. 
Crawford to OCO, 1 Apr 43, sub: Technical Infor- 
mation Letter No. 2 — Service Units, O.O. 320.2/ 
1 178. (5) Ltr, Ch Ord Off NATO to CofOrd, 16 
May 43, sub: Technical Information Letter No. 5, 
O.O. 350.05/3416. (6) MS, Full Track, Armored 
Tank Recovery Vehicles, OHF. (7) CO Provisional 
Ordnance Group, 23 Apr 43, sub: Assignment of 
Ordnance Units, II Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres, 
KCRC. 

51 Winston Churchill, Speech, November 10, 1942, 
in The End of the Beginning, War Speeches by Rt. 
Hon. Winston S. Churchill, 1942, compiled by 
Charles Eade (London: Little, Brown and Com- 
pany, 1943). 



Division at Djebel Abiod, with the Corps 
Franc d'Afrique on its left, with orders to 
avoid the main road and advance through 
the Sedjenane valley to Bizerte. He 
ordered the 1st Infantry Division to Bedja 
to open the Tine valley floor so that the 
1st Armored Division could break through 
to Mateur. The jump-off date for the 
attack, set by the British, was Good Friday, 
23 April, but whether or not the Americans 
could meet it depended on how fast sup- 
plies could be brought up to the front. 52 

A shortened supply line, stronger sup- 
port from Eastern Base Section, and the 
employment of new techniques learned 
during early stages of the campaign made 
possible an Ordnance build-up in a phe- 
nomenally short time. At Bone, the new 
base port for II Corps, Eastern Base Sec- 
tion quickly amassed an ammunition depot 
of about 9,000 tons. From Bone, ammu- 
nition and light Ordnance general supplies 
were reloaded on tank landing craft and 
balancelles (Mediterranean fishing boats) 
and moved by night to the small shallow- 
water port of Tabarka behind the front. 
From Tabarka the 66th Ammunition Com- 
pany and the 78th Depot Company sent 
the ammunition, spare parts, small arms, 
and other materiel in trucks to forward am- 
munition supply points and maintenance 
companies. Light tanks, half-tracks, and 
light artillery were processed by the 45th 
Medium Maintenance Company at an 
EBS shop at Morris, ten miles east of Bone, 
and went by the coast road to Bedja. 
Medium tanks and the heavier self-pro- 
pelled artillery, which were too heavy for 
the bridges along the coast road, were 
loaded on tank transporters and sent south 
through Souk el Arba to Bedja. En route. 



Bradley, A Soldier's Story, pp. 77-79. 



146 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



at Duvivier, they were groomed and com- 
bat-loaded by the 87th Heavy Tank Main- 
tenance Company. 53 

The Americans attacked at dawn on 23 
April in an explosion of artillery fire that 
lit up the eastern sky. Artillery and infan- 
try were to play the major role in this last 
battle for Tunisia because Bradley was not 
willing to expend his tanks in valleys domi- 
nated by the enemy, which was entrenched 
on a succession of rocky hills. The fight- 
ing was a matter of attacking hill by hill, 
on both the 9th Division and the 1st Divi- 
sion fronts. The last major obstacle on the 
1st Division sector was a white, soaring 
djebel known as Hill 609, northeast of the 
railhead at Sidi Nsir. Bradley brought up 
the 34th Division, which took the hill on 
30 April. The way was then open for the 
1 st Armored Division to move to Mateur. 
To the north the 9th Division, advancing 
through a dense, breast-high thicket, out- 
flanked the Germans' strong Djefna posi- 
tion. The enemy began to withdraw. 
Mateur fell on 3 May and after some re- 
grouping, during which Bradley's com- 
mand post advanced from Bedja to Sidi 
Nsir, II Corps resumed the attack on 6 
May. The next day the forward half- 
tracks of the 9th Division were clanking 
into the rubble-filled streets of Bizerte, the 
1 st Armored Division was occupying Ferry - 
ville, and British First Army tanks were 
entering Tunis. On 9 May the Axis forces 
in Tunisia surrendered. 



63 ( 1 ) Ord Serv Tunisian Campaign, pp. 15-16, 
and Plate V. (2) Rpt, MacMorland to Chief of 
Ordnance, 13 Jul 43, sub: Notes on Trip to 
North African and European Theaters of Opera- 
tion (hereafter cited as MacMorland Rpt of 13 
Jul 43), pp. 13-17, OHF. (3) Ltr, Crawford to 
Campbell, 28 May 43, in History AFHQ Ord Sec, 
OHF. (4) Dunham MS, p. 287. (5) History 78th 
Depot Company, p. 6. 



In support of this battle, Colonel 
Medaris had placed a battalion on each 
flank of II Corps, the 188th near Bedja 
behind the 1st Infantry Division and 1st 
Armored Division on the south, the 42d 
near Djebel Abiod behind the 9th Division 
on the north. Both battalions supported 
the 34th Division when it arrived between 
the two flanks. Believing strongly that 
Ordnance service ought to be "so far for- 
ward at all times that troops need not seek 
it out, but merely by 'holding up their 
hands' may have them filled with adequate 
tools of war," Medaris sent his mechanics 
up to the front to repair equipment or 
bring it back to battalion shops and ad- 
vanced the corps ammunition dumps "to 
the absolute limit of reasonable safety." 54 

On a visit to the corps Ordnance instal- 
lation between 30 April and 2 May, Col. 
William A. Borden, an Ordnance research 
and development specialist from the United 
States, found that Medaris had instilled 
"an adventurous spirit in his personnel so 
that they are keen to go forward and keep 
up with the front line troubles." Medaris 
repeatedly sent his assistant, "a reckless boy 
who fitted in here perfectly," to the front 
lines to check on Ordnance service, using 
a weapon-filled jeep that carried on a 
pedestal an antiaircraft .50-caliber machine 
gun and on the front a high angle iron to 
cut the wire that the Germans sometimes 
strung across the road to catch the heads of 
jeep drivers. After touring the shops and 
dumps in this jeep and talking to veterans 
of central Tunisia, Borden observed: 
"These Ordnance boys are tough experi- 



54 (1) Medaris Rpt of 1 Jun 43. (2) Rpt, Col 
William A. Borden, Official Report of Observations 
in North Africa and United Kingdom April 15, 
1943-May 22, 1943 (hereafter cited as Borden Rpt 
N.A. and U.K. 1943), Incl 17, OHF. 



WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 



147 



enced men, front line troops. . . . Most of 
them are seasoned and their outfits have 
been through some severe combat." 55 

Medaris himself inspected his outfits 
several times a week with a quick and crit- 
ical eye, seeing to it that the shop trucks 
in the treeless, rocky terrain were covered 
with camouflage nets; the piles of ammuni- 
tion were scattered to minimize the effects 
of bombing; and the men did not congre- 
gate in mess lines and shop areas where 
they could be spotted from the air. For 
his own quarters at Bedja, his mechanics 
had fitted up a trailer with a folding bunk, 
a desk, maps, and electric lights that could 
be connected to a power source. An idea 
borrowed from the British and soon to be 
adopted by most American commanders in 
the field, the trailer provided a headquar- 
ters office that could be hooked to a truck 
and quickly moved to a new location. 
Medaris had learned that it was impossible 
for an Ordnance officer to operate success- 
fully from the rear echelon, as specified in 
"the book." 56 

Colonel Borden and other observers from 
the United States had been warned by 
General Hughes that it was dangerous to 
draw conclusions from the Tunisia Cam- 
paign because so few U.S. troops had been 
involved. It was true that in some re- 
spects the experience had been too special 
to be used as a guide; for example, II 
Corps had not been operating normally, as 
a typical corps under a typical army. For 
this reason, Colonel Crawford and planners 
in the United States were inclined to dis- 



count Medaris' recommendation that for- 
ward Ordnance service in the future flow 
from corps rather than from army. The 
planners felt that a vigorous Ordnance of- 
ficer at army level would be just as suc- 
cessful as Medaris had been in delivering 
service far forward — and in later cam- 
paigns army Ordnance officers (Medaris 
was one of them) proved this to be true. 57 
The men in the field had learned a great 
deal in Tunisia that was to be extremely 
valuable to them when they went on to 
Sicily, Italy, and France. They had ex- 
perimented with Ordnance organization in 
the field and with such important innova- 
tions as battlefield recovery. They had 
made some important discoveries about 
their equipment. One of them was the 
need for radio transmitters to enable widely 
dispersed Ordnance troops to communicate 
with each other. Above all, Ordnance 
men had learned that they could not oper- 
ate by the book. Maintenance men had 
discovered that it was "utterly impossible" 
to operate the field shop prescribed by Field 
Manual 9-10. Modern warfare required 
repairmen to be much closer to the front, 
more mobile, and more versatile than had 
ever been contemplated. Furthermore, 
the manual was out of date, for it had been 
published in April 1942, before Ordnance 
had been given responsibility for all motor 
vehicles. Colonel Medaris had found that 
85 percent of the Ordnance field mainte- 
nance task was automotive, including 



55 Borden Rpt N.A. and U.K. 1943, Incl 8, pp. 
10-12, Incl 16, p. 1. 

69 ( 1 ) Ibid., Incl 8, p. 14, and Incl 16, p. 1. 
(2) Medaris Rpt, 1 Jun 43. 



67 (1) Borden Rpt N.A. and U.K. 1943, Incl 
9, p. 2, and MacMorland Rpt, 13 Jul 43, p. 3. 
Both quote General Hughes. (2) Medaris Rpt, 1 
Jun 43 and 1st Ind. (3) Ltr, Lt Col Joseph M. 
Colby, Asst to Chief Tank-Automotive Center, to 
CofOrd, 25 Aug 43 ( 1 st Ind to Ltr CofOrd to Chief 
Tank-Automotive Center), O.O. 350.05/4600- 



148 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



tanks. 58 American forces were dependent 
on motor transport to a degree never before 
known in the history of warfare. British 
war correspondents were astonished by the 
bumper-to-bumper truck traffic and the 
number of jeeps. One of them tells the 
story that in Gafsa an Arab denounced 
three German spies dressed in American 
uniforms, and when asked how he knew 
they were spies answered, "Because they 
were walking and had no jeep." 59 

The problem of getting enough spare 
parts to take care of this flood of vehicles, 
especially such simple, ordinary items as 
tire patches, seemed almost unsolvable. 
Another unexpected cause for concern in 
Tunisia was the shortage of spare parts for 
artillery. The war was turning out to be 
an artillery war, especially a war of heavy 
artillery: the 155-mm. howitzer, affection- 
ately called "a faithful old dog" by artil- 
lerymen, and the 155-mm. Long Tom, 
highly prized because it could deliver fire 
up to 23,000 yards. 00 By mid-February 
1943, the twenty-four Long Toms had 
been fired so often with supercharges to 
obtain maximum ranges that their tubes 
were beginning to wear out, and stocks of 
parts dwindled. When there were no 
parts, Ordnance mechanics made them in 
their shop trucks. 01 

The book on ammunition supply was not 
followed in several respects. Colonel 



M (1) Ltr, Petersen to CofOrd, 28 Jun 43, sub: 
Ordnance Field Maintenance, Campbell Overseas 
File, OHF. (2) Medaris Rpt, 1 Jun 43. (3) Mac- 
Morland Rpt, 13 Jul 43, pp. 5, 20. 

r,B Jordan, Jordan's Tunis Diary, p. 213. 

90 Borden Rpt N.A. and U.K. 1943, Incl 19, p. 
1; Incl 25, p. 2. Also, File, NATOUSA Rpts, 
OHF. 

61 ( 1 ) MacMorland Rpt, 13 Jul 43. (2) Ltr, Brig 
Gen John A. Crane to CO 1 88th Ord Bn, sub : Com- 
mendation, Campbell Overseas File. 



Niblo had always disliked and opposed the 
provision of Field Manual 9-6 that predi- 
cated ammunition supply on the submission 
of an ammunition status report every day 
by every commander, from company level 
up. He knew this procedure required a 
great deal of paper work and created too 
much traffic in the Ordnance officer's sec- 
tion ; besides, the figures were often inaccu- 
rate. His substitute plan, put into effect 
early in the Tunisia Campaign, was pat- 
terned after the basic load of the mainte- 
nance companies. Basic load ammunition 
was the amount that could be carried in 
the vehicles allotted for the purpose in 
tables of basic allowances. No loads in 
borrowed trucks were permitted. When a 
commander needed ammunition, he sent a 
man to the nearest ammunition supply 
point with an order, signed by the division 
ammunition officer, containing a certificate 
that the ammunition was to replace ex- 
penditures. This requirement was to pre- 
vent divisions and smaller units from estab- 
lishing dumps that might later have to be 
abandoned. On the presentation of the 
certificate, the unit was allowed to draw 
all the ammunition it wanted — up to the 
limit of its basic load. The supply point 
sent a report to the II Corps Ordnance 
officer every day. 62 

Experience in Tunisia had also demon- 
strated that the prescribed methods of 
stocking ammunition supply points were 
unrealistic. Automatic supply on the basis 
of so many units of fire was not feasible 
because of the wide variation in types and 



02 ( 1 ) Niblo Interv of 28 Sep 55. (2) History Ord 
Service MTO, ch. II, p. 23. (3) Hq II Corps Adm 
Order, 9 Feb 43, and Memo, Ord Off II Corps for 
Ord Off 1st Armored Div, 11 Feb 43, both in II 
Corps Ord Sec, Misc Corres, KCRC. 



WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 



149 



quantities consumed. The War Depart- 
ment unit of fire was excessive on many 
items, markedly so on small arms ammuni- 
tion. II Corps had substituted for it a 
"day of combat expenditure." Also, 
Medaris had discovered that rail transpor- 
tation of ammunition to the front could not 
be depended upon because it required too 
much advance planning. 63 

On the performance of weapons, Allied 
and enemy, the Libyan desert rather than 
Tunisia had been the proving ground. 04 
In Tunisia the Americans had encountered 
three new German weapons, the Pzkw VI 
Tiger tank; the Nebelwerjer, a five-tube or 
six-tube cluster of rocket launchers 
mounted on a gun carriage and fired elec- 
trically; and the long-range 170-mm. gun. 
None had given very impressive perform- 
ances. The tank, described by a British 
correspondent as a "legendary flop," 65 was 
used rather gingerly, usually in conjunction 
with Pzkw IV or Pzkw III tanks, and fre- 
quently broke down. The Nebelwerjer, 
brought from the Russian front and first 
employed briefly at Kasserine, had little 
effect on the campaign. Though the 
piercing screech of their long 150-mm. or 
210-mm. rockets, earning for them the 
nickname of "Screaming Meemies," was 
hard on the nerves, the models that 
appeared in Tunisia were inaccurate. The 
170-mm. gun, first encountered at Mak- 



63 (1) Medaris Rpt, 1 Jun 43. (2) Air Forces 
ammunition supply was entirely separate from that 
of the ground forces. It went directly from ports 
to Air Forces ordnance depots; and the one near- 
est the front was at El Guerrah, 25 miles south 
of Constantine. Memo, Col William G. Young for 
Chief, Military Training Division, 9 Jun 43, sub: 
Information Desired by Military Training Divi- 
sion, O.O. 350.05/3720. (3) Crawford Interv. 

94 See above, pp. 23—33. 

65 Jordan, Jordan's Tunis Diary, p. 213. 



nassy in late March 1943, outranged any 
American artillery in Tunisia by about 
5,000 yards, but its ammunition was poor 
and scarce, and the gun seems to have 
made little impression on most American 
observers. One significant piece of news 
brought back to the United States by Colo- 
nel Borden was that the Germans had a 
self-propelled 88-mm. gun. Pictures of it 
were found on a German captured in 
Tunisia. 66 

The most important new Allied weapon 
employed was the Mi rocket launcher fir- 
ing the M6 antitank rocket — the bazooka. 
Task forces embarking for Northwest 
Africa from the United States and England 
had been equipped with bazookas at the 
last moment. In the case of Western Task 
Force, the weapons were brought to the 
U.S. ports by plane from manufacturers all 
over the country and distributed the night 
the troops were going aboard ship. In 
England the Center Task Force had little 
time for training. On the evening before 
embarkation for North Africa, one troop 
commander shocked General Eisenhower 
by saying that he was completely at a loss 
"as to how to teach his men the use of this 
vitally needed weapon. He said, T don't 
know anything about it myself except from 
hearsay.' " 67 Also, the bazooka had been 
rushed into production very fast. There 



68 (1) Crawford Interv. (2) Borden Rpt N.A. 
and U.K. 1943. (3) Memo, Hq 9th Inf Div Arty 
to CO's, 26th, 34th, 60th and 84th Field Artillery 
Bns, 4 Sep 43, sub: The German Nebelwerfer, 
Annex F to AGF Bd Rpt, ETO No. 25. (4) Ltr, 
Col George B. Bennett to Lida Mayo, 19 Nov 59. 
(5) Schmidt, With Rommel in the Desert, pp. 
191, 213. (6) OCO Rpt, Heavy Self-Propelled 
Artillery: Design, Development and Production, 1 
Sep 44, app. C, Extracts, Military Reports from 
Various Sources, pp. 62-65, OHF. 

67 Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 94. 



150 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



were so many reports of malfunctions that 
the War Department suspended issue in 
May 1943, pending modifications. In 
these circumstances, it is understandable 
that the bazooka did not play an important 
part in the Tunisia Campaign. Visiting 
the theater at the close of the campaign, 
the commanding general of the Armored 
Command could not find anyone who 
could say definitely that a tank had been 
stopped by bazooka fire. 68 

In April 1943, one of the first of the 
specially trained Ordnance Technical In- 
telligence Teams arrived in the combat 
area in Tunisia. Commanded by Capt. 
George B. Bennett and attached to AFHQ 
G— 2, the team worked directly with Colo- 
nel Medaris. In a very short time it 
proved to be extremely valuable not only 
to II Corps Ordnance but to tactical com- 
manders who came up against German 
tanks, mines, and guns for the first time 
and wanted information on the capabilities 
of enemy weapons and means of defeating 
them. 69 Captain Bennett also earned the 
gratitude of Ordnance tank designers by 
sending to the United States the first Tiger 
tank captured in Tunisia early in 1943. 



88 ( 1 ) Leighton and Coakley, Global Logistics 
and Strategy, ^40-43, p. 440. (2) Interv un- 
named interviewer with Maj. Morgan, Stock Con- 
trol Branch, Field Service Division, Office Chief 
of Ordnance, Folder Notes — Ordnance Supply and 
Activities North Africa and Sicily, OHF. (3) 
Thomson and Mayo, Procurement and Supply, 
p. 183. (4) Green, Thomson, and Roots, Planning 
Munitions for War, p. 350. (5) Maj Gen Alvan 
C. Gillem, Jr., CG Armored Command, to CofS 
War Dept. 1 Aug 43, sub: Report of Observations 
at European Theater of Operations and North 
African Theater of Operations, Doc. 78.2-7, Ar- 
mored School Library. 

B0 (1) See above, p. 33. (2) Ltr, Col George B. 
Bennett, to Linda Mayo, 19 Nov 59, OHF. 



Getting it to Algiers and aboard ship was 
a feat that required considerable energy 
and ingenuity. Lacking any standard 
tank handling equipment, Bennett man- 
aged to get the 60-ton Tiger into the hold 
of a Liberty ship with the help of two en- 
listed men and an improvised block and 
tackle. 70 

At the "end of the beginning," the first 
American ground effort in the war against 
Germany, roads and fields in the battle 
area were littered for miles with weapons, 
tanks, and vehicles, including sand-colored 
Afrika Korps trucks distinguished by a 
small green palm tree painted on the door 
— a reminder of service in the Middle East. 
The trucks and other enemy equipment 
and all salvage went to collecting points at 
Mateur, the town to which Eastern Base 
Section moved its headquarters the latter 
part of May. Medaris sent the experi- 
enced 42d and 188th Battalions there to 
help clear the Mateur-Bizerte area. Most 
tanks, many of the small arms, and hun- 
dreds of trucks were destroyed, but large 
quantities of usable materiel were re- 
covered. Ammunition companies blew up 
or burned out not only a great deal of 
unserviceable ammunition but also thou- 
sands of rounds that had been transported 
for some time out of their containers and 
thus were considered of uncertain quality. 
Some of this type might have been re- 
claimed if there had been enough facilities 
to do the job. A detachment of one of the 
ammunition companies set up a renovation 
plant at Mateur, but it was too small to 



70 ( 1 ) G. B. Jarrett, Achtung Panzer, p. 82. (2) 
Press release, "Ordnance Intelligence Officers Ex- 
ercise Ingenuity on Battlefields . . . ," Folder Enemy 
Materiel, Barnes File, OHF. 



WITH II CORPS IN TUNISIA 



151 



handle more than a fraction of the sal- 
vaged ammunition. 71 

Six months almost to the day after the 
landing in North Africa, II Corps pulled 
down its tents and headed west, back over 
the mountains to the neighborhood of 
Oran. In the long convoys, almost every 
truck had a German or Italian helmet fas- 
tened to its radiator; jeeps and motorcycles 
flew French flags or the black and yellow 
death's head pennants that the Germans 



71 (i) Hist Ord EBS, pp. 29-31, 36, 43-44. 
(2) Ord Serv Tunisian Campaign, p. 17. (3) 
Memo, Medaris for CO's, 42d Bn, 188th Ord Bn, 
14 May 43, II Corps Ord Sec Misc Corres, KCRC. 
(4) Meade, "Ammunition Supply in the MTO," 
p. 265. 



used to mark their mine fields; the men 
had Lugers, German field caps, goggles, 
and other trophies. Tanned by the Afri- 
can sun and toughened by service close to 
the front, Medaris and his staff arrived at 
Oran late in May. There they found the 
Mediterranean Base Section far along in 
its preparations to support the next cam- 
paign and the tactical units engaged in an 
intensive training program. Near Arzew, 
General Clark had built a village with 
streets and mock-up houses and stores to 
accustom troops to street fighting. The 
Allies were getting ready for the invasion 
of Sicily. 72 



72 (1) Pyle, Here is Your War, p. 275- (2! 
Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 173. 



CHAPTER IX 



The Short Campaign in Sicily 



The decision to invade Sicily in order to 
intensify pressure on Italy, divert German 
forces from the Eastern Front, and cement 
the Allied hold on the Mediterranean was 
made at the Casablanca Conference late in 
January 1943 by President Roosevelt and 
Prime Minister Churchill, acting with the 
Combined Chiefs of Staff. General Eisen- 
hower was designated Supreme Com- 
mander, and General Alexander, his depu- 
ty, was placed in command of ground oper- 
ations. By mid-February the planning 
headquarters that Eisenhower set up in 
Algiers, known as Force 141 from its room 
number at the Hotel St. George, had chosen 
the favorable July moon as the target date 
and designated General Montgomery's 
Eighth Army (Force 545) and General 
Patton's I Armored Corps (Force 343) to 
make the assault. The headquarters of I 
Armored Corps was largely composed of 
Patton's Western Task Force headquarters, 
which had directed the landing at Casa- 
blanca. With the additional strength as- 
signed to it for the invasion, the corps was 
really an army, and was to be designated 
Seventh Army on landing in Sicily. For 
the present, to confuse the enemy and con- 
ceal the strength of the invasion forces, it 
was called I Armored Corps (Reinforced). 
Its major elements were to consist of II 
Corps headquarters and six divisions — four 
infantry, one armored, and one airborne. 1 



At the time his corps was given its mis- 
sion, General Patton was in Tunisia com- 
manding II Corps. He detailed a group of 
officers to go to Algiers and represent him 
in the nomination of troops for Force 343. 
Among them was Col. Thomas H. Nixon, 
his Ordnance officer. Nixon had helped 
plan the landing at Casablanca, had come 
to North Africa as Ordnance officer of the 
Western Task Force, and had made an ex- 
cellent record in establishing extensive Ord- 
nance installations in the Port-Lyautey 
area. A few years older than Niblo and 
Medaris, he was described by Colonel Bor- 
den as "energetic and forward-looking," 
and was highly esteemed by Patton. 2 



1 ( 1 ) The Conquest of Sicily from ioth July, 1943 
to ijth August, 1943, Dispatch by His Excellency 
Field-Marshal the Viscount Alexander of Tunis 
. . . (supplement to The London Gazette, Feb- 
ruary 12, 1948), p. 1009. (2) Lt. Col. Albert N. 
Garland and Howard McGaw Smyth, Sicily and 
the Surrender of Italy, UNITED STATES ARMY 
IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1965), chs. 
I-V. Unless otherwise noted, this chapter is based 
on this source. (3) Samuel Eliot Morison, "His- 
tory of United States Naval Operations in World 
War II," vol. IX, Sicily — Salerno — Anzio (Boston: 
Little, Brown and Company, 1954), p. 15. (4) 
Report of Operations of the United States Seventh 
Army in the Sicilian Campaign (hereafter cited as 
Seventh Army Rpt), p. a-2. 

2 (i) Memo, Borden for Campbell, 7 Jun 43; 
Ltr, Col R. Sears to Campbell, 18 Aug 43. Both 
in Campbell Overseas file. (2) Report of the 
Ordnance Installation at Port-Lyautey, French 
Morocco, MS, OHF. 



THE SHORT CAMPAIGN IN SICILY 



153 



Plans for Husky 

The Ordnance planning for the Sicily 
Campaign (Husky) was based on the sup- 
port of three large attack (subtask) forces 
— Cent, Dime, and Joss. There was also 
to be a small reserve force, Kool (operat- 
ing with Dime). The rest of the Seventh 
Army was to follow when the beachheads 
were secured. In all, one American armored 
and four reinforced infantry divisions were 
to be committed, about 228,000 men, 
along with British and Canadian divisions 
amounting to 250,000 men. Nobody ex- 
pected an easy victory. Sicily, a moun- 
tainous, rugged country, offered every ad- 
vantage to the defender and was thought 
to be held by about 350,000 Axis troops 
that could easily be reinforced from Italy 
across the narrow Strait of Messina. The 
Allied invasion of Sicily was to be the great- 
est amphibious operation yet attempted — 
and was to remain the greatest in World 
War II in terms of initial assault. There 
were to be more than 3,200 vessels in the 
vast armada, of which 1,700 were required 
to carry American men and cargo. By the 
end of the first week of operations, the 
United States had landed 132,113 men, 
25,043 vehicles, and 515 tanks. 3 

The proposed Ordnance troop list to 
support the campaign consisted of 8 bat- 
talions of 41 companies: 3 battalions (2 



3 (i) Morison, Sicily — Salerno — Anzio, pp. 12-13, 
28. (2) H. H. Dunham, U.S. Army Transporta- 
tion and the Conquest of Sicily, Monograph 13 
(hereafter cited as Dunham Sicily MS), p. 1, MS, 
OCMH. (3) Rpt, Lt Col Henry L. McGrath, 
Ordnance Planning for Operation Husky (here- 
after cited as McGrath Rpt), p. 6, Incl to Memo, 
Field Service Div, Military Plans & Organization 
Br, Theater Plans for Chief Industrial Div, 22 Sep 
43, sub: Report of Ordnance Service in Sicilian 
Campaign, O.O. 350.05/6491. 



maintenance, 1 ammunition) to support 
the task forces, and 5 (4 maintenance, 1 
ammunition) to follow with Seventh Army. 
Colonel Nixon planned more depot com- 
panies, proportionally, than had been used 
in the North African operations because of 
the spare parts problem, and more heavy 
maintenance companies because of the 
growing importance of heavy and self- 
propelled artillery. 4 

The Ordnance supply planning, super- 
vised by Nixon's executive, Lt. Col. Nelson 
M. Lynde, Jr., took three and a half months, 
beginning at Rabat, Morocco, in mid- 
March, continuing at Oran — to which I 
Armored Corps headquarters moved early 
in April — and winding up at forward head- 
quarters at Mostaganem the end of June. 
The planners soon discovered, as the Cen- 
ter Task Force planners had learned in 
England, that it was very hard to mount 
an operation in an overseas theater. It was 
especially hard for Husky planners because 
they had no exact reports as to the weapons, 
vehicles, and other major items on hand 
with the troops at the time. Many of the 
units assigned to the force were not yet 
in the theater and others were still actively 
engaged in the Tunisia Campaign. The 
only way to order supplies for the units was 
to find out from tables of basic allowances 
(T/BA's), tables of equipment (T/E's), 
and tables of organization (T/O's), Ord- 
nance equipment charts, and special au- 
thorizations what they ought to have, and 
to estimate the maintenance parts and 
spare major items that would be needed, 
modifying normal amounts according to ex- 
perience in Tunisia. The planners had been 

4 (i) Seventh Army Rpt, Report of the Ord- 
nance Officer, p. K-i. (2) Ltr, Nixon to Camp- 
bell, 10 Mar 43, Files of Travel and Insp Rpt 
Unit, OCO Field Service. 



154 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



directed to submit requisitions every two 
weeks (for delivery thirty days later), with- 
out a cut-off date. They were told that 
operations in Sicily would take four months. 
General Patton, who disagreed with this 
estimate, stating in Colonel Nixon's pre- 
sence, "We'll either take Sicily in 60 days 
or be forced off the island," finally secured 
permission to stop requisitioning, but by 
that time a tremendous amount of materiel 
was on the way. Between 18 April and 15 
July, 140,551 tons of Ordnance supplies, 
including depot equipment, were ordered, 
to be delivered in ten bimonthly convoys 
labeled UGS-i 1 through UGS-20. The 
requisitions went from I Armored Corps to 
SOS NATOUSA, which forwarded them 
to the New York Port of Embarkation. 5 

During the spring months supply plan- 
ners in North Africa became more and 
more aware of the great power exercised by 
the New York Port of Embarkation. The 
port's Office of Overseas Supply scrutinized 
all requisitions to see that the stocks ordered 
did not exceed the maximum level pre- 
scribed by the War Department for 
NATOUSA, which was enough supplies to 
last for ninety days. This process of review, 
known as editing, was bitterly resented by 
the men in the theater, but was considered 
essential by the port in order to keep any 
one theater from being given more than its 
fair share of supplies. 



6 (1) Ltr, Col Thomas Hay Nixon (USA Ret) 
to Brig Gen Hal C. Pattison, 24 Sep 63 (here- 
after cited as Nixon Comments), OCMH. (2) 
Seventh Army Rpt, Report of the Ordnance Of- 
ficer, p. K-i. (3) Col. T. H. Nixon, "Across the 
Beachheads," Army Ordnance, XXVIII (May- 
June 1945), P- 396. (4) For problems of estimat- 
ing ammunition requirements at division level, see 
"Task Force Ammunition Planning," by Lt. Col. 
Wayne H. Snowden (3d Div Ordnance) in Mil- 
itary Review, vol. 26, No. 12 (March 1947), pp. 
51-55- 



When enormous requisitions began to 
come in from North Africa, the New York 
port officials suspected that much was being 
ordered that was already in the theater; 
that, in fact, requisitioners were not first 
examining stocks and then ordering but 
were simply applying combat maintenance 
factors to the standard T/BA's for the en- 
tire troop basis. All through the spring, 
Army Service Forces tried to find out just 
what was on hand in North Africa. Re- 
ports in February showed that Casablanca 
had 270 days of supply and Oran 205, but 
little was known specifically and it was 
probable that the stocks were unbalanced; 
for some items the levels were probably not 
up to the authorized figure of 90. The 
truth was that NATOUSA did not know 
what it had in its depots. Most of the rec- 
ords were inaccurate because cards had 
been posted by French or Italian clerks, 
who were the only civilian help available 
locally, but whose English was poor. For 
great piles of equipment, unloaded helter- 
skelter to let ships leave the docks prompt- 
ly, no records existed. The G— 4 Division 
of the Mediterranean theater later admitted 
that it was not until early in 1944 that 
inventories at the depots in North Africa 
"even approached a semblance of accu- 
racy." 6 

Whatever the reason for editing, the 
Ordnance men in the theater felt that their 
requisitions ought to be filled because they 



e (0 Logistical History of NATOUSA-MTO- 
USA, p. 58. (2) Memos, Lutes for Somervell, 11 
Mar, 5 May, and 19 May 43, sub: Chronology of 
a Certain Plan, ASF Planning Div, Theater Br, 
Gen File 17. (3) Memo, CG ASF for ACofS 
OPD, WDGS, 5 May 43, sub: Requisitions from 
the North African Theater of Operations, ASF 
Planning Div, Theater Br, Gen File 1. (4) 
Minutes, Conference Held in the Office of Over- 
seas Supply, NYPE, 22 Feb 43, ETO Ord Sec 
400.37, KCRC. 



THE SHORT CAMPAIGN IN SICILY 



155 



needed the materiel. They were willing to 
use theater stocks, even though levels on 
some weapons had been maintained by using 
obsolete types such as the 191 7 model 155- 
mm. howitzer, but they could not use stocks 
that were unrecorded and therefore un- 
known. On the whole, they felt that the 
New York port was unrealistic in attempt- 
ing to apply a prewar post-camp-and-sta- 
tion system to a vast, new, and unpredict- 
able combat theater. And in addition to 
the general editing on the basis of levels 
of stocks, the Ordnance Section of the Of- 
fice of Overseas Supply, headed by Col. 
Waldo E. Laidlaw, was checking requisi- 
tions to see whether or not the item ordered 
was listed in the addendum to the Standard 
Nomenclature List; if not, the demand was 
forwarded to the Chief of Ordnance and 
the theater was advised that the item would 
probably not be available. In this process 
there were plenty of opportunities for mis- 
takes on the part of the editors, as Colonel 
Nixon knew from his own experience. The 
preceding December he had ordered 2,000 
fuzes to replace those lost in the Casablanca 
landing, and had received exactly 1 1 , which 
was one-twelfth of a year's maintenance 
according to the SNL's. In preparing for 
Husky he appealed to General Campbell 
to see that his requisitions for small, fast- 
moving items such as electrical parts, gas- 
kets, and seals were filled, even though 
they were excessive according to the SNL's, 
and he won his point. 7 



7 ( 1 ) Seventh Army Rpt. Report of Ordnance 
Officer, p. K-i. (2) Memo, Col Harry A. Markle, 
Jr., for Col Hollis, 12 Sep 43, sub: Report on 
Sicilian Operations, ASF Distribution Div, 31 9.1. 
(3) Ltr, Ford to Campbell, 28 Apr 43, O.O. 
350.05/3i44 I / 2 . (4) Ltr, Coffey to Campbell, 20 
Jul 43, Campbell Overseas File. (5) Minutes, 
Conference Held in the Office of Overseas Supply, 
NYPE, 22 Feb 43. (6) Ltrs, Nixon to Campbell, 



New Materiel 

While the heavy requisitions for Husky 
were being dispatched to the United States, 
the planners were also studying new types 
of materiel. The Tunisia Campaign had 
shown that some way had to be found to 
combat land mines. The men in the Ord- 
nance shops were working on a mine- 
destroying vehicle similar to the British 
Scorpion, which used steel chains attached 
to a revolving roller to flail the ground in 
front of a tank; but material for it was hard 
to get locally. At Mostaganem the mechan- 
ics of the 83d Heavy Maintenance Com- 
pany tried to make a mine-resistant vehicle 
by lining the floor of a command car with 
armor plating, but it was not a success. At 
a demonstration attended by General 
Patton, they tied a young goat to the seat 
and set off a Teller mine underneath the 
car. They reported that "the goat died 
bravely." 8 

In Sicily the first bazooka model (the M 1 
launcher with the M6 rocket), which had 
been suspended from issue at the end of the 
Tunisia Campaign, was to be given another 
chance. To make desirable modifications, 
teams equipped with materials and tools 
were being sent overseas from the United 
States in July 1943; but the new model 
(the M1A1 launcher and M6A1 rocket) 
could not be produced in time for use in 
Sicily. Convinced that the advantages of 
the M6 rocket far outweighed its disad- 
vantages, Ordnance officers in the theater 
deplored the suspension, feeling that the 



17 Apr 43, 1 Jun 43, O.O. 350. 05/3083 and 3653. 
(7) Ltr (personal), CofOrd to Ord O, I Armd C 
Reinf, 23 Jun 43, O.O. 35005/3730 , / 2 . 

8 (1) Ltr, Nixon to Campbell, 10 Mar 43. (2) 
Hist 83d Ord HM Co (Field Army) (Formerly 
HM Co Tank), 16 Jun 41 -Dec 44. 



156 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



War Department had been too hasty. Colo- 
nel Coffey, Ordnance officer of SOS, re- 
quested reconsideration of the decision. He 
was successful and the early bazooka was 
again issued, but with restrictions on using 
it at high temperatures because of the be- 
lief that the sensitivity of the rocket to heat 
created the hazard of a premature explo- 
sion. 9 

Some twenty miles west of Mostaganem, 
where amphibious exercises were going on 
at Arzew and neighboring Port aux Poules, 
there were some striking evidences of how 
far amphibious warfare had advanced 
since that November morning when the 
Maracaibos Misoa and Tasajera had 
grounded off Arzew. Men were using 
LST's manufactured in the United States 
from a British design based on the Mara- 
caibo, and LCT's (landing craft, tank), 
resembling floating flatcars, to take tanks, 
guns, and vehicles close inshore. More in- 
teresting to Ordnance men were the 2/2- 
ton amphibian trucks swimming through 
the surf — the first DUKW's the men in the 
theater had seen. 10 

This strange hybrid that could swim from 
LST's to the shore and then waddle to in- 
land dumps had been named by the en- 
gineers of General Motors: D for the year 
1942, U for utility, K for front-wheel drive, 
and W for two rear driving axles; and was 
of course nicknamed the Duck. Its ances- 
tor was the amphibious jeep used, though 



( 1 ) Green, Thomson, and Roots, Planning 
Munitions for War, p. 359. ( 2 ) Ltr, Coffey to Camp- 
bell, 21 Aug 43, Campbell Overseas File. (3) Ltr, 
Medaris to Borden, 21 Aug 43, Folder NATOUSA 
Report (Col Medaris to Col Borden), 9 Sep 43. 
OHF. 

10 ( 1 ) Borden Rpt, p. 9. (2) Memo, Maj Gen 
Wilhelm D. Styer to CofOrd, 12 Feb 43, sub: 
Lessons Learned from Amphibious Operations in 
North Africa, Incl, p. 11, Files of Travel & Insp 
Rpt Unit, OCO Field Service. 



without much success, in the North African 
landings. In the spring of 1942 the meth- 
od used on the jeep — that of wrapping 
around it a watertight hull and adding a 
rudder and a propeller — had been applied 
to the 2/2 -ton truck. The result was a 
swimming truck that could carry 5,000 
pounds of supplies, or 50 men, or a 105- 
mm. howitzer ashore and then operate over 
beach sand and coral. Army Service 
Forces had at first opposed taking on a new 
special vehicle, with all the maintenance 
headaches involved, but when the problem 
of landing on beaches became pressing in 
the fall of 1942 General Somervell directed 
Ordnance to procure 2,000. After spec- 
tacularly successful tests in late December 
and early January 1943, the number was 
increased to 3,000. The later models had 
a central tire-control system that enabled 
the driver to partially deflate tires so they 
could travel over beach sand. A useful 
accessory was the A-frame, or crane, for un- 
loading cargo. 11 

The first DUKW's were sent to the South 
Pacific, where warfare was primarily am- 
phibious. They were used to expedite the 
turnaround time of ships at places such as 
Guadalcanal where there were no docks, 
and were not contemplated for use in as- 
sault landings. 12 The DUKW's were first 



11 ( 1 ) National Defense Research Committee, 
Division 12, Vol I, Transportation Equipment and 
Related Problems (Washington, I94 6 )> Chs. 1-4. 
(2) Ltr Gen George C. Marshall to Dr. Vannevar 
Bush, 14 Jul 43, and unsigned memorandum for 
General Somervell, 15 Jul 43. Both in RCS 19 — 
Transportation Corps Historical Program File, 
Amphibious Vehicles in World War II (hereafter 
cited as TC Amphibious File). (3) Thomson and 
Mayo, Procurement and Supply, pp. 284-86. 

12 ( 1 ) Memo, Col John M. Franklin for Deputy 
Chief of Transportation, 30 Mar 43, sub: Ship- 
ment of 2 /--ton Amphibian Trucks Overseas. 
(2) Memo, Lt Col L. W. Finlay for Brig Gen 



THE SHORT CAMPAIGN IN SICILY 



157 



used by an invasion force in the Sicily 
landings. General Eisenhower included 
400 in a requisition for amphibious equip- 
ment on 3 March 1943. When they ar- 
rived at the invasion training center near 
Oran they performed so well that everyone 
wanted them. General Patton doubled his 
request, and by early summer the theater 
had more than a thousand. 13 

The DUKW had its faults. It was small, 
hard to unload, performed poorly in mud, 
was slow in the water (about 5 knots was 
the best it could do), and was so bulky on 
land that it blocked traffic on narrow roads. 
As a new and very special vehicle, it was 
going to present Ordnance with tough 
maintenance problems, just as Army pessi- 
mists had predicted. 14 But in the spring of 
1943 the DUKW's were new and as yet 
untried under combat conditions. They 
were easy to operate and seemed remark- 
ably sturdy. They were hailed with great 
enthusiasm by the men assembling the vast 
invasion force along the coast of Africa, 
and the fact that they were becoming avail- 



Wylie, et al., 28 Oct 43. (3) Report, Amphibian 
Organization in the Pacific [1943]. All in TC 
Amphibious File. 

13 (1) Dunham Sicily MS, pp. 47-48. (2) Bor- 
den Rpt, p. 18. 

14 ( 1 ) Seventh Army Report, Annex 12, First 
Engineer Special Brigade, p. I— 1 7. (2) Memo, 
Brig Gen Robert H. Wylie for Lt Comdr Taylor, 
Planning Division, OCT, 1 1 Sep 43, and un- 
signed manuscript of Feb 44 (hereafter cited as 
DUKW MS), both in TC Amphibious File. (3) 
J. Wallace Davies, "The Dead Dukw?" Army 
Transportation Journal II (June 1946), p. 9. (4) 
AFHQ, Notes on Chief Administrative Officer's 
Conference N. A., Jun-Jul 43, ASF Planning Div, 
20 Gen File, Vol III. (5) Rpt, Maj William H. 
Connerat, Jr., Report on Ordnance in Sicilian 
Campaign, Through 2 August 1943 (hereafter 
cited as Connerat Rpt), p. 6, Incl to Ltr, Craw- 
ford to CofOrd, 24 Aug 43, sub: Technical In- 
formation Letter No. 2, O.O. 350.05/6491. 



able in large numbers, along with the 
LST's, made possible a significant change 
in the tactical planning for Husky. 15 

The first plans for the invasion had pro- 
vided for a landing by the Americans on 
the northwest corner of Sicily with the 
object of capturing Palermo, a large city 
with good docks. Early in May General 
Montgomery insisted that, instead, the 
Americans take over some of the assault 
area allotted to the British on the south- 
eastern coast, arguing that the enemy would 
be too powerful to permit the wide disper- 
sion of British forces. He won his point 
and the plan was changed. Thus II Corps 
was to attack in the crescent-shaped Gulf 
of Gela, the ist Division (Dime Force) to 
take the town of Gela, and the 45th Divi- 
sion (Cent Force) to land in the east at 
Scoglitti. Both were to drive inland to cap- 
ture airfields; and a regiment of the 45th 
was to make contact with Montgomery still 
farther east, at Ragusa. Twenty miles 
west of the town of Gela, General Truscott's 
Joss Force, consisting of the 3d Division 
and a combat team of the 2d Armored Divi- 
sion, was to land at the small port of Licata 
and make contact with the II Corps on the 
right. Since Palermo was not to be taken, 
supplies would have to be brought in by 
LST's and DUKW's and moved over the 
beaches for the first thirty days. 16 



15 Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 163. 

16 ( 1 ) Field Marshal the Viscount Montgomery 
of Alamein, El Alamein to the River Sangro (Ger- 
many: Printing and Stationery Services, British 
Army of the Rhine, 1946), pp. 70-72. (2) 
Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, pp. 163-64. Many- 
Americans continued to believe that the original 
plan was the better, and it later turned out that 
Montgomery had overestimated enemy strength. 
Ibid., p. 164. 



158 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



The Invasion Fleets Depart 

To support the task forces, Colonel Nixon 
selected the 63d Ammunition Battalion, 
which at Casablanca had been operating 
one of the largest depots in North Africa; 
the 43d Maintenance and Supply Battalion, 
a Western Task Force unit; and the 42 d 
Maintenance and Supply Battalion, which 
had been released by II Corps to Eastern 
Base Section to work on battlefield clear- 
ance and help mount the Sicily operation in 
the Bizerte area. Nixon kept his ammuni- 
tion battalion under army, but assigned his 
maintenance battalions to the tactical units, 
the 43d to II Corps and the 42 d to Joss 
Force, which was later to become the 
Provisional Corps. As in the later phases 
of the Tunisia Campaign, the maintenance 
battalions were combined third and fourth 
echelon battalions with attached depot com- 
panies, but included some specialists that 
were new — several companies devoted en- 
tirely to antiaircraft maintenance, one auto- 
motive company trained on DUKW's and 
another equipped to supply spare parts, and 
two platoons of a bomb disposal company. 
Most of the maintenance battalions were to 
arrive in Sicily after D plus 4. The assault 
troops were to be accompanied by four am- 
munition companies, divided evenly be- 
tween II Corps and Joss Force, and some 
detachments for repairing DUKW's and 
trucks. 

Cent Force (primarily 45th Division), 
arriving combat-loaded from the United 
States in 28 transports on 22 June, was to 
sail from Oran on 4 July; Dime Force 
(primarily 1st Division) was to embark 
from Algiers the following afternoon; and 
Joss Force (primarily 3d Division) would 
leave from Bizerte still later on 5 July. The 
Ordnance troops to support not only Dime 



but Cent, which had with it only the 45th 
Division's organic light maintenance com- 
pany, assembled near Algiers and spent 
most of their time on the last-minute job of 
waterproofing their vehicles. Waterproof- 
ing was still in the experimental stage. 
There was a serious shortage of kits and 
such materials as asbestos grease and flexi- 
ble tubing, and no really satisfactory meth- 
od of waterproofing trucks and jeeps had 
been developed. 17 

During the latter part of June Colonel 
Medaris, Ordnance officer of II Corps, and 
most of Colonel Nixon's Ordnance Section 
left Oran for Tunisia to board LST's for 
the invasion. At Bizerte, where Force 343 
was setting up a small base to handle supply 
in the first stages of the battle, they found 
feverish preparations. Harbor lights were 
blazing all night, in spite of the risk of air 
raids, so that loading could go on around 
the clock. Here were concentrated the 
LST's, LCI's (landing craft, infantry), and 
LCT's upon which General Truscott's Joss 
Force was to embark. In Joss, the first big 
shore-to-shore operation, LCT's, which 
were usually carried on the decks of LST's, 
were to go under their own power, since 
the Joss landing area in Sicily was not 
much more than a hundred miles away; 
smaller types of landing craft such as the 
LCVP and the LCM (landing craft, mech- 
anized ) were carried on the davits of LST's 
and transports. 18 



17 ( 1 ) Diary of Events, Ordnance Section II 
Corps, 21 May to 23 Aug 43 (hereafter cited as 
II Corps Ord Sec Diary), II Corps Ord Sec, 
KCRC. (2) Connerat Rpt. (3) McGrath Rpt. 
(4) Report on Sicilian Operations, 7 Sep 42, 
ASF Distribution Div, 31 9.1. 

18 ( 1 ) Seventh Army Rpt, Report of the Ord- 
nance Officer, p. K-i. (2) Ernie Pyle, Brave Men 
(New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1944), p. 2. (3) 
"Invasion Force," Army Ordnance, XXVI (March- 
April 1944), pp. 309-16. 



THE SHORT CAMPAIGN IN SICILY 



159 



Near Ferryville the 42c! Battalion was 
waterproofing its vehicles for its D plus 8 
landing and drawing supplies from a large 
Ordnance depot installed by Eastern Base 
Section in the seaplane hangars at the 
French Navy Yard. In the shop section of 
the depot there was an Ordnance unit with 
an interesting history — the 525th Heavy 
Maintenance Company (Tank), recently 
arrived from Tripoli. Having crossed the 
Western Desert with Montgomery's Eighth 
Army and operated shops at Benghazi and 
Tripoli, repairing everything from English 
revolvers to captured German 88's, the com- 
pany had been brought to Tunisia in early 
June to prepare the tanks of the 2d 
Armored Division for the invasion of Sicily. 
There it came under U.S. control for the 
first time in its year of overseas service. The 
men had gotten along well with the British, 
but never got used to tea. 19 

At Bizerte and Mateur were huge am- 
munition dumps. The Mateur dump, 
where all marked ammunition for Sicily 
was stored, had just lost about 2,200 tons 
of ammunition in a fire that broke out on 
30 June and spread quickly in a high wind. 
The fire had been brought under control 
by the 66th Ammunition Company and 
maintenance men of the 1 88th Ordnance 
Battalion, stationed nearby, who fought it 
with tanks, trampling out fires carried over 
the firebreaks and swirling the tanks to 
throw dirt on the flames. In the midst of 
thundering explosions and falling shell frag- 
ments, the tank crews had had several nar- 
row escapes. In all, there were fourteen 



casualties, but 10,000 tons of ammunition 
had been saved. 20 

D-day was 10 July. On the bright, sunny 
afternoon of 8 July the ships and landing 
craft of Joss Force swarmed out of the 
harbor and into the dark blue of the Medi- 
terranean. Suddenly the men saw out at 
sea the great invasion fleet of the Cent and 
Dime Forces. To Ernie Pyle, aboard a 
Joss Force ship, the armada standing on 
the horizon was a sight he would never 
forget. It "resembled a distant city. It 
covered half the skyline, and the dull- 
colored camouflage ships stood indistinctly 
against the curve of the dark water, like a 
solid formation of uncountable structures 
blending together. Even to be part of it 
was frightening." 21 

The huge fleets joined and filed through 
the Tunisian "War Channel." Then the 
transports turned south, to deceive the 
enemy, and the landing craft turned east. 
All were to converge near Gozo, north of 
Malta, where the approach dispositions for 
Joss, Dime, and Cent were to form; but 
as they sailed toward the meeting place 
there was a piece of bad luck that threat- 
ened the whole invasion. After days of 
calm a stiff norther — a true Mediterranean 
mistral — began to blow on the morning of 
9 July and became worse during the after- 
noon. The sea sprang up, rocking the 
transports from side to side and pouring 
over the little landing craft. By twilight it 
seemed all but impossible to gather the 
ships together in any kind of order, but the 



19 (1) Hist Ord EBS, p. 28. (2) History 525th 
Ord HM Co, Tank, 1943. (3) Martinez, "Saga of 
the 'Great 525th,' " pp. 326-28. (4) See also above, 
p. 21. 



2,1 (1) Hist Ord EBS, pp. 39, 46. (2) Petersen 
Rpt of 14 Feb 45, p. 13. 

21 Quote from p. 8, Brave Men by Ernie Pyle. 
Copyright 1943, 1944 by Scripps-Howard News- 
paper Alliance. Copyright 1944 by Holt, Rinehart 
and Winston, Inc. Reprinted by permission of Holt. 
Rinehart and Winston, Inc. 



160 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




Landing at Gela. An LST loaded with ammunition burns offshore after a hit from a 
dive bomber. 



armada had proceeded too far to turn 
back. Good seamanship saved the day and 
shortly after midnight, when the first ships 
of the three U.S. forces were within radar 
range of Sicily, the wind began to die 
down. 22 

The Landings 

Off Gela, the men at the rails of the 
Dime transports saw a long line of brilliant 
yellow and orange lights. They were fires 
in wheatfields started by Allied bombers. 
While the mine sweepers combed the waters 
off Gela, the transports hove to about seven 
miles offshore, flanked bv LST's and LCI's, 



and began lowering men into landing craft. 
Once in the craft, the troops took an hour 
and a half to cover the distance to the beach 
over a sea that was still running so high 
that the little boats pitched and shuddered 
and were all but drowned in great, roaring 
waves. Searchlights from the shore played 
over the boats and explosions were heard in 
the neighborhood of Gela, but the appre- 
hensions of the men were soon quieted, for 
there was little opposition the first day ex- 
cept from dive bombers and artillery from 
inland. The coastal area, lightly garrisoned 
by Italian troops, had been taken by sur- 
prise. 23 



" Morison, Sicily — Salerno — Anzio, pp. 67-68. 



23 Jack Belden, Still Time to Die (New York 
and London: Harper and Brothers, 1944), pp. 
244, 251. 



THE SHORT CAMPAIGN IN SICILY 



161 



The only serious resistance to the land- 
ings came on D plus i when the Hermann 
Goering Division, which was a tank divi- 
sion, arrived on the Gela plain and very 
nearly succeeded in breaking through to the 
beachhead. The Germans were stopped by 
i st Division artillery and infantry with 
bazookas, powerfully aided by the guns of 
the cruisers and destroyers offshore — the 
most effective large-scale use of naval gun- 
fire in land operations so far in the war. In 
the afternoon, when Tiger tanks had come 
up, self-propelled artillery and Sherman 
tanks, landed from the reserve Kool Force 
that came in with Dime, knocked out about 
one-third of the German tanks, including 
ten Tigers, and drove off the rest. The 
beachheads were saved, and on 12 July 1st 
Division took its main objective, the Ponte 
Olivo airfield. 

The work of the bazooka in the landings 
and throughout the campaign was watched 
with great interest. One Ordnance ob- 
server claimed that bazookas accounted for 
Pzkw IV tanks on four occasions; another 
claimed a Pzkw VI Tiger, though admitted- 
ly the Tiger was knocked out by a lucky 
hit through the driver's vision slot. On the 
other hand, many officers preferred the 
rifle grenade to the bazooka as a close-range 
antitank weapon. An interesting discovery 
made in Sicily was that the bazooka was 
effective as a morale weapon against enemy 
soldiers in strongpoints and machine gun 
nests. It was no longer thought of only as 
an antitank weapon, and in its new role 
was so well liked by the troops that they 
disregarded the restrictions on its use. At 
high temperatures three barrel bursts did 
occur, but fortunately no one was hurt. 24 



24 (1) Connerat Rpt. (2) Ltr, Lt Col Frederick 
G. Crabb, Jr., to Gen Campbell, 7 Sep 43, and 
Ltrs, Medaris to Borden and Crawford, 21 Aug 



The first Ordnance officers ashore on 
D-day were men of Medaris' II Corps staff, 
Maj. William C. Farmer and Lt. Edward 
A. Vahldieck, who landed at dawn with 
infantry combat teams to find sites for am- 
munition dumps and collection points and 
generally keep abreast of the tactical and 
supply situation. During the morning the 
1 st Division's light maintenance company 
got ashore, crossed the dunes, and biv- 
ouacked about a mile inland. Beyond the 
beach were stone farmhouses, vineyards, 
and, best of all, fields of ripe tomatoes and 
watermelons — a delicious change from K 
rations. To the left, on a small hill that 
dominated the flat countryside, were the 
whitewashed roofs and church spire of the 
little gray stone town of Gela. The 
swarthy, thin-faced Sicilians the Ordnance 
troops saw at the farmhouses or driving 
bright painted wagons down dusty roads 
were friendly; and many of the Italian sol- 
diers who came running out of pillboxes to 
surrender seemed actually glad to see the 
Americans. In spite of heavy bombing, 
strafing, and artillery fire, in which 1st Lt. 
Charles P. Bartow of the light maintenance 
company was wounded, the II Corps Ord- 
nance officers managed to spike a number 
of the coastal defense guns. 25 

43. All in NATOUSA Report (Col. Medaris to 
Col. Borden), 9 Sep 43, OHF. (3) The Germans 
reported capturing some bazookas, which they called 
Ofenrohre (stovepipes) at Gela; however it seems 
probable that their Panzerschreck, was copied from 
a U.S. bazooka captured on the Russian front in the 
fall of 1942. See Oberstlieutnant Hellmut Bergen- 
gruen, Der Kampf der Panzer division 'Hermann 
Goering auf Sizilien, MS # T-2 (Fries et al.) , p. 
53, OCMH; also see above, p. 32. 

23 (1) Lt. Col. W. C. Farmer, "Ordnance on 
the Battlefield," Army Ordnance, XXVII (Sep- 
tember-October 1944), P- 298. (2) II Corps Ord 
Sec Diary, June, July 1943. (3) History 1st Ord 
LM Co, p. 5. (4) Belden, Still Time to Die, pp. 
260-63. (5) Pyle, Brave Men, pp. 20-22. 



162 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




.?#hBJ 






. r- - - 



DUKW's in Ship-to-Shore Operation, Sicily 



By the afternoon of D-day the beach 
below Gela was piled for miles with boxes, 
bags, and crates of every shape and descrip- 
tion. All day the ships on the horizon had 
been unloading their cargoes, mostly into 
DUKW's. To everybody's great disap- 
pointment, the LST's could not get close 
enough to open their great bow doors di- 
rectly on the beach, for there were sand 
bars beyond which the water leading to the 
true beach was so deep that it could not be 
forded. Ammunition and artillery had to 
be brought ashore by the DUKW's. All 
had been loaded in North Africa before em- 
barkation, ioo with three tons of ammuni- 
tion each, 28 with shore regiment equip- 
ment, and each of the remaining 16 with a 
105-mm. howitzer. Four hours after the 



first assault troops landed, the DUKW's 
swarmed ashore and in a matter of minutes 
the four batteries of 105-mm. howitzers 
were in action. Ton upon ton of ammuni- 
tion rolled in as the DUKW's raced back 
and forth from ship to shore. A war cor- 
respondent, Jack Belden, described the 
scene: "The rim of the horizon ten miles 
out to sea was lined with transports . . . And 
from the transports new hordes of tiny craft, 
like water bugs, were scooting toward the 
shore to add their own heaped-up loads and 
the chattering of their own roaring engines 
to the riot and the confusion already on the 
beach." 26 



- (O DUKW MS. (2) Connerat Rpt. (3) 
Morison, Sicily-Salerno-Anzio, p. 106. (4) Belden, 
Still Time to Die, p. 269. 



THE SHORT CAMPAIGN IN SICILY 



163 



By late afternoon three LST's were able, 
by rigging causeways, to unload vehicles 
and men directly on the beach, but the 
vehicles had hard going. The beaches 
were mined, and, worse, the sand was soft. 
The engineers had laid down wire matting, 
but it could not accommodate all the 
traffic; trucks sank to their hubcaps in the 
sand, engines racing, as jeeps tried to pull 
them out. Many stalled because their 
motors or batteries had been corroded by- 
salt water during the landing; the water- 
proofing had not stood up under unex- 
pectedly deep water. Soon the beach was 
clogged with stalled and disabled vehicles. 
All were badly needed to bring order out 
of the mountainous piles of materiel on the 
beaches. 27 

Unlike the trucks, the DUKW's, which 
had desert-type tires as well as the auto- 
matic tire-deflating mechanism, ran easily 
over the sand, and in the first days of the 
invasion they were badly overworked on 
land as well as at sea. When the combat 
troops moved forward, nine DUKW's were 
commandeered to rush ammunition to the 
front twenty miles inland because other 
vehicles could not get through the sandhills. 
No sooner had they returned to the beach 
than they were ordered to pull 105-mm. 
howitzers, needed to stop a German tank 
attack, over dunes as high as 180 feet. 
The appearance at the front line of the 
queer, high-sided vehicle completely mysti- 
fied the enemy. Some thought it an am- 
phibian tank; a hundred Italians were re- 
ported to have surrendered at first glance. 
One DUKW was captured by the Ger- 



mans, but they were apparently unable to 
operate it, and it was recaptured by the 
Americans twenty-four hours later in ex- 
actly the same spot. 28 

Long hauls over rough roads at high 
speeds were hard on the DUKW's special 
tires, salt water and sand damaged their 
brakes, and overloading at shipside — some 
DUKW's waddled ashore with as much as 
seven tons aboard, showing only two or 
three inches of freeboard above the water 
— weakened their bodies. The thirty-nine 
men of the 3497th DUKW Maintenance 
Company who came ashore at Gela at 
dawn on the morning after D-day had their 
work cut out for them. They did not have 
enough spare tires and parts for propellers, 
and bilge pumps were sadly lacking. The 
mechanics, by cannibalizing DUKW's that 
were wrecked by mines or sunk offshore, 
kept most of the fleet operating, against 
great odds. 29 

In the British landing area also the 
DUKW plagued the repairmen, but it did 
so well that its faults seemed minor. The 
commander of the task force that landed 
the Eighth Army praised it highly; the 
British Royal Army Service Corps reported 
that it "revolutionized the business of beach 
maintenance." A British commander 
summed up the feeling of many when he 
called the DUKW "a magnificent bird." 30 



27 (1) Ibid., p. 267. (2) Ltr, ist Lt Charles P. 
Bartow, CO ist Ord LM Co, to CG ist U.S. Inf 
Div, 12 Aug 43, sub: Lessons Learned in Opera- 
tions, Folder, History 701st Ord LM Co. (3) Con- 
nerat Rpt. 



28 DUKW MS, pp. 2-3. 

29 ( 1 ) Connerat Rpt. (2) Rpt on Sicilian Cam- 
paign by Maj Gen John P. Lucas, quoted in Memo, 
Brig Gen Robert H. Wylie for Lt Comdr Taylor, 
Planning Div, OCT, 1 1 Sep 43, TC Amphibious 
File. (3) Seventh Army Rpt, Rpt of First En- 
gineer Special Brigade, pp. I— 1 7. (4) DUKW MS, 
pp. 10-11. (5) History 3497th Ord MAM Co, 
pp. 2-3. (6) Ltr, Crawford to CofOrd, 19 Oct 
43, sub: Technical Information Letter No. 15. 
MTO Ord Sec 400.1 13, KCRC. 

30 ( 1 ) Rpt of Eastern Naval Task Force, Vice 
Adm B. H. Ramsay, Commander, to CinC Medi- 



164 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Dime Force at Gela had run into more 
opposition than had Cent Force at Scog- 
litti or Joss at Licata. At Scoglitti the 
surf had been so strong that new beaches 
had to be found, but by the afternoon of 
1 1 July the 45th Division had succeeded in 
taking one of its main objectives, the 
Comiso airfield, had entered the large town 
of Ragusa, and had stopped a German 
counterattack at Biscari airfield with the 
help of the newly arrived 82 d Airborne 
Division, plus a battery of 155-mm. field 
artillery, a company of Sherman tanks, and 
heavy fire from the Navy. That night, 
General Bradley moved the II Corps com- 
mand post two miles inland, and two days 
later Maj. John Ray, the II Corps ammu- 
nition officer, made arrangements with the 
Engineer beach group, which controlled 
supplies on all beaches, to establish a dump 
for the 45th Division at Vittoria, a town 
seven miles inland on the coast road, the 
first Allied ammunition supply point on the 
island. The beaches at Scoglitti were 
closed on 1 7 July. After the 1 7th, until a 
better port was captured, supplies were to 
be landed in the Licata area. 31 

Because of the early capture of port 
facilities at Licata, the build-up there had 



terranean, 1 Oct 43, Incl to "The Invasion of 
Sicily" [dispatch 1 Jan 44 by Admiral of the 
Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham, to Supreme Com- 
mander, AEF, with Admiralty and Air Ministry 
footnotes], 28 Apr 50 Supplement to the London 
Gazette of 25 Apr 50, p. 2084. (2) The Story of 
the Royal Army Service Corps, 1939-1945 (Lon- 
don, 1955), p. 254. (3) Rpt, Capt Frank Speir, 
Lessons Learned, ASF Planning Div, Theater Br. 
31 ( 1 ) II Corps Ord Sec Diary, 1 1-13 Jul 43. (2) 
Ltr, Maj John Ray to Ordnance Officer, II Corps, 
26 Aug 43, sub: Ammunition Supply — Sicilian 
Campaign (hereafter cited as Ray Ltr, 26 Aug 43) 
in folder, II Corps Ammunition Supply Report 
Sicilian Campaign July 10, 1943-August 15, 1943, 
II Corps Ord Sec, KCRC. 



been easier than that at Gela and Scoglitti. 
On D-day Truscott's Joss Force, consisting 
of the 3d Infantry Division and Combat 
Command A of the 2d Armored Division, 
took Licata and advanced to occupy 
strongpoints on the hills beyond. Before 
dark the countryside far inland was 
crowded with troops, vehicles, and thou- 
sands of boxes of ammunition. Command 
posts were being established in orchards 
and old buildings, field kitchens were being 
set up to cook hot food. Next day Joss 
Force began its move up the west coast and 
by noon was well ahead of schedule. 32 

Colonel Nixon's Problems 

On the afternoon of 12 July Colonel 
Nixon went ashore at Gela with the rest of 
General Patton's staff and helped to set up 
the advanced command post, one echelon 
in a school building, the other in a grove 
north of town. As Ordnance officer of the 
first U.S. army to take to the field in World 
War II, Nixon had a pioneer job and had 
to perform it under rather difficult circum- 
stances. He had a very small staff, only 
14 officers and 3 warrant officers; for so 
large an operation as Husky he later esti- 
mated that he ought to have had at least 4 
more officers and 30 enlisted men. He 
had asked repeatedly for more men but 
each time had been refused. 33 

The very rapidity of Seventh Army's ad- 
vance made Ordnance support difficult. By 
22 July General Truscott's Joss Force, 
now designated Provisional Corps and 



32 Pyle, Brave Men, pp. 20-22. 

33 ( 1 ) Seventh Army Rpt, p. B-6, and list of 
staff at end, no pagination. (2) Connerat Rpt. 
(3) Extracts from Notes of the Commanding Gen- 
eral, Seventh Army, on the Sicilian Campaign, 
MTO Ord Sec 400. 113, KCRC. 



THE SHORT CAMPAIGN IN SICILY 



165 



augmented with all the tanks of 2d 
Armored Division (except Combat Com- 
mand A), had raced northwest and cap- 
tured the large port of Palermo. General 
Bradley's II Corps advanced up the center 
of the island and captured the hub of the 
network of roads in the Caltanisetta-Enna 
area. Then the 1st Infantry Division 
headed east toward the Messina peninsula, 
where the Germans were concentrated and 
the British Eighth Army was stalemated. 
The 45th drove north and captured San 
Stefano on the northern coast. 

The combat forces outran their Ord- 
nance support. The 45th Division, for 
example, moved so rapidly that until 27 
July it had only its own 700th Light Main- 
tenance Company to repair its guns and 
vehicles. The 2d Armored Division, in its 
fast run of about 200 miles in five days to 
Palermo, starting 1 9 July from near Licata, 
had only part of its own maintenance bat- 
talion — not more than 30 percent of the 
support it would normally have demanded. 
It encountered enemy opposition and had 
to cross terrain that was extremely difficult 
for tanks. The roads were mountainous, 
flinty, and dusty, and at times cut by de- 
files from which bridges had been blown. 
Not only tank tracks but truck tires, then 
and throughout the campaign, suffered 
from the narrow wagon-track roads cov- 
ered with volcanic rock. 34 

General Patton, dashing about in a com- 
mand car decked with oversize stars and 



34 (1) Connerat Rpt. (2) Ltr, Crabb to Camp- 
bell, 7 Sep 43. (3) Ltr, Hq Maint Bn, 2d Armd 
Div, to Ord, Armd Comd, Ft. Knox, sub: Mainte- 
nance Operations of Maintenance Battalion De- 
tachment, 2d Armored Division during period of 
July io-3ist 1943 Inclusive, Mitchell Notes, OHF. 
(4) Combat Maintenance, Doc 179. 1-5, p. 5, MS, 
Armored Force Library. (5) Nixon Comments. 



insignia or poring over maps in his office 
with, his G— 3, planning the tactics of his 
Seventh Army, seemed to General Bradley 
to be "almost completely indifferent to its 
logistical needs." 35 On the other hand, 
Colonel Nixon maintained that General 
Patton put great emphasis on logistics but 
preferred to delegate responsibility for sup- 
ply to experts whose judgment he trusted. 
With one exception (the Battle of the 
Bulge) Patton never failed before every 
operation to ask Nixon whether he was pre- 
pared to support it, and gave full weight 
to Nixon's reply. 30 The general's attitude 
had also been illustrated by a remark he 
had made in the presence of Lt. Col. Carter 
B. Magruder of ASF during the planning 
for the Casablanca landing of Western 
Task Force. On that occasion Patton had 
said to his G-4, Col. Walter J. Muller, "I 
don't know anything about logistics. You 
keep me out of trouble." 37 

Palermo was captured on 25 July, and 
the port was quickly opened. Colonel 
Nixon moved to Palermo with the rest of 
Patton's staff, and the general established 
himself in the Royal Palace. An Italian 
aircraft factory, spared from bombing by 
arrangement with the various air forces, 
made an admirable Ordnance depot, even- 
tually to be operated by two depot com- 
panies. The 42d Maintenance and Sup- 
ply Battalion, which landed at Licata on 1 8 
July, arrived in Palermo 28 July. Com- 



35 ( 1 ) Bradley, A Soldier's Story, pp. 145-46, 
159-60. (2) Diary of Maj. Gen. John P. Lucas, 
pt. I, Sicily (hereafter cited as Lucas Diary, 
Sicily), OCMH. 

36 ( 1 ) Nixon Comments. (2) See also below, p. 
316. 

"Lecture, Lt. Gen. Carter B. Magruder, DCS- 
LOG DA, Army Logistics, Command and General 
Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 10 Apr 
59, MS, OHF. 



166 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



manded by Lt. Col. John F. Moffitt, it con- 
sisted largely of veterans of the Tunisia 
Campaign, including the 991st Heavy 
Maintenance Tank Company (the old 
30th). 38 

The men of the 42 d Battalion were as- 
signed to maintain the Provisional Corps, 
but by the time they had arrived, the 
fighting around Palermo had dwindled to 
mopping-up operations. The immediate 
task of Seventh Army in early August was 
to support II Corps. Bradley's corps now 
included the 3d Division (replacing the 
45th, retired for rest and refitting), which 
was pushing east along the north coast road 
toward Messina, slowed by mountainous 
terrain and stiffening resistance. The 1st 
Division, aided by the newly arrived 9th 
Division and reinforced by a brigade of field 
artillery, was stopped at Troina, near 
Mount Etna, where the enemy had taken a 
strong stand. The battle of Troina, in 
which the greatest weight of II Corps was 
committed, lasted from 3 to 6 August. 

In attempting to support II Corps in the 
battle of Troina, Colonel Nixon was handi- 
capped by a woefully weak staff, especially 
after he had to release his ablest officer, 
Colonel Lynde, to become Ordnance of- 
ficer of the Provisional Corps. He him- 
self was working from 16 to 18 hours a 
day, having to devote time to routine details 
that subordinates could have handled. In 
addition, information and reports came late 
from the front because all correspondence, 
including Ordnance, had to flow through 
command channels. And he was hindered 
from sending all-out Ordnance support to 
II Corps because of the army's inflexibility 



in the matter of men and supplies. Maj. 
Gen. Geoffrey Keyes, Patton's deputy at 
Palermo while Patton was ranging up and 
down the front every day, jealously guarded 
army's prerogatives and, far from agreeing 
to the assignment of more Ordnance troops 
to corps, insisted that all Ordnance troops 
remain under army. 39 

On 3 August Colonel Medaris made the 
5-hour trip from the 1st Division front back 
to Palermo to protest that he was not get- 
ting enough support from army. The 43d 
Ordnance Battalion did not provide him 
with enough maintenance. He desperate- 
ly needed another automotive repair com- 
pany. He had no collection and evacua- 
tion point nearer than Palermo, and no 
maintenance and supply facilities close to 
the front. To get supplies his men had had 
to race back to the beaches, sometimes 
spending days going from dump to dump. 
This in turn placed a heavy drain on trans- 
portation, for trucks and tires wore out 
rapidly when operated continuously over 
the lava rock roads of Sicily. He com- 
plained that Ordnance materiel in the 
dumps was being stolen and diverted. And 
he strongly protested that the supply of 
ammunition had not been adequate to give 
the II Corps commander complete tactical 
freedom. 40 

"A Black Eye on Ordnance" 

The reason for many of these troubles 
was Seventh Army's supply system. In a 
command decision very early in the cam- 
paign, General Patton gave the supply task 



38 (1) Col. T. H. Nixon, "Across the Beach- 
heads," Army Ordnance, XXVIII (May-June 
■945), P- 396. (2) Connerat Rpt. 



39 (1) Connerat Rpt. (2) Bradley, A Soldier's 
Story, p. 159. (3) II Corps Ord Sec Diary, Colonel 
Medaris' Journal — 3 August 1943 (hereafter cited 
as Medaris Jnl of 3 Aug 43), p. I. 

40 Ibid. 



THE SHORT CAMPAIGN IN SICILY 



167 



to the i st Engineer Special Brigade, which 
would act as an SOS, managing depots 
beyond the beaches, right up to the front. 
General Bradley thought it was a mistake. 
Ordnance objected, but in vain. As Ord- 
nance officers foresaw, the improper han- 
dling of ammunition by the Engineers was 
"a black eye on Ordnance, even though the 
fault lay elsewhere." 41 

Confusion was inevitable at the beach 
dumps; it was when the ammunition began 
to move inland that Ordnance officers be- 
gan to worry. They observed that the 
Engineers considered it just so much ton- 
nage, moving small arms ammunition first, 
because it was the easiest to handle, disre- 
garding tactical requirements and the rec- 
ommendations of their Ordnance liaison 
officer. Three out of four ammunition 
dumps established by Seventh Army were 
overstocked with small arms ammunition 
and never had enough 105-mm. and 155- 
mm. artillery ammunition, which was what 
II Corps wanted most. The expenditures 
for small arms were surprisingly low and, 
because of the mountainous terrain and 
Allied command of the air, those for tank 
and antiaircraft weapons were almost negli- 
gible. The only ammunition dump that 
had enough artillery ammunition was so 
far from both the north coast and the east 
front that it took too long to send trucks 
back to it over the narrow, mountainous 
roads. One of II Corps' chief complaints 
was that army did not have enough trans- 
port to move stocks far enough forward. 
The dump at Nicosia, closest to the Messina 
front, reached its artillery target only with 
the help of corps transport. 42 



11 (1) Connerat Rpt, p. 11. (2) Bradley, A Sol- 
dier's Story, p. 145. 

" (1) Connerat Rpt. (2) Ray Ltr, 26 Aug 43. 
(3) Medaris Jnl of 3 Aug 43. (4) Maj. William C. 



The main reason for confusion at the for- 
ward dumps was that the Engineers did not 
make the best use of Ordnance ammunition 
companies, which they controlled. The 
headquarters men of the Seventh Army's 
63d Ammunition Battalion, which landed 
soon after D-day, could act only in an ad- 
visory capacity. The Engineers used tech- 
nically trained ammunition troops as com- 
mon labor and, over Ordnance protests, 
did not give them any organic transporta- 
tion. A few 2/ 2 -ton trucks would have 
enabled the ammunition detachments to 
segregate types within the dumps and 
would have facilitated issues immeasur- 
ably. When artillery ammunition finally 
began to move, an Ordnance observer saw 
in several advanced dumps all four types 
of 105-mm. howitzer ammunition in one 
stack, which made night issues extremely 
difficult. Near the end of the campaign. 
Colonel Nixon arranged for the 63d Am- 
munition Battalion to take over from the 
Engineer special brigade the operation of 
all forward dumps, but the battalion had 
no transportation and came too late on the 
scene to be of much help. 43 

Nixon believed that the problem created 
by the Engineers' misuse of Ordnance 
troops would have been corrected imme- 
diately if the troops had reverted to army 
after the landing operations instead of re- 
maining attached to corps, because he 
would have had a prompt report on the 
fiasco. As it was, it took some time for 



Farmer, "Beach Parties," Firepower (June 1944). 
p. 6. 

43 (1) Connerat Rpt. (2) History 63d Ord Bn 
(Ammunition), p. 28. (3) Ray Ltr, 26 Aug 43. 
(4) Memo, Maj W. C. Farmer for Ordnance Of- 
ficer, AFHQ, 3 Aug 43, sub: Ordnance Notes 
Based on Sicilian Campaign, II Corps Ord Sec 
3 1 9. 1, KCRC. (5) II Corps Ord Sec Diary, 27 
Jul, 5-15 Aug 43. 



168 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 







W-;: r 



*- VvT^: •*- 



Hauling a 155-mm. Gun Inland, Sicily 



Bradley to inform Patton of the situation 
through command channels. The decision 
to attach army Ordnance units to corps 
without providing for reversion after land- 
ing was Nixon's own, and he afterward re- 
proached himself for it — "a bitter lesson" 
and one that was not forgotten when he 
became Ordnance officer of U.S. Third 
Army. 44 

It took heavy artillery to blast the enemy 
out of his Etna position on the Messina 
neck. The Germans had begun to dread 
the Americans' "mad artillery barrages," 
which thev nicknamed Feuerzauber or "fire 



magic." 45 Keeping the guns operating was 
the most serious Ordnance maintenance 
problem of the last two weeks of the cam- 
paign. The problem began about 24 July 
when several field artillery units were trans- 
ferred from Provisional Corps to II 
Corps, bringing II Corps artillery to 60 155- 
mm. howitzers, 25 155-mm. guns, and 54 
105-mm. howitzers. Most of the 155-mm. 
howitzers were of the M 1 9 1 7 or M 1 9 1 8 type 
and some of these, Ordnance officers sur- 
mised, had been used ever since World War 
I. Many were already worn out, a few actu- 



Nixon Comments. 



45 Lucas Diary, Sicily, app. 1, quotes a letter of 
29 July found in an abandoned German gun posi- 
tion near Troina. 



THE SHORT CAMPAIGN IN SICILY 



169 



ally condemned, before they arrived in the 
theater. Others had had hard service in 
the Tunisia Campaign and afterward not 
enough assemblies or parts had been 
available in North Africa to do more than 
patch them up. They began to fail the 
first day they were fired in Sicily, and soon 
1 8 were out of action. The new 155-mm. 
Mi howitzers functioned much better, but 
had all the idiosyncracies of a new weapon; 
they also often arrived without spare parts 
and such accessories as telescopes. 46 

To repair the guns and howitzers at the 
Etna position Colonel Medaris had only the 
18-man artillery section of his 83d Heavy 
Maintenance Tank Company. None of the 
men had ever worked on either the 155- 
mm. howitzer or the 155-mm. gun, and 
had no tools for either. Operating near 
Nicosia, so close to the front that they could 
plainly hear small arms fire, the men man- 
ufactured tools and reshuffled serviceable 
assemblies. They sent out contact parties 
to work at the gun positions at consider- 
able risk; they lost two men, 2d Lt. Tom 
P. Forman and Technician 5 Roland G. 
McDorman, killed by an accidental ex- 
plosion while working on a 155-mm. gun. 47 



46 ( 1 ) II Corps Ord Sec Diary, 17 Aug 43. (2) 
Ltr, Medaris to Campbell, 15 Aug 43 (hereafter 
cited as Medaris Ltr, 15 Aug 43), NATOUSA 
Letter, Personal to Gen Campbell, 15 Aug 43, OHF. 
(3) Ltr, Capt Ralph G. Atkinson to Col Medaris, 
Ord Officer, II Corps, 11 Sep 43, sub: Report of 
Operations, Armament Section (hereafter cited 
as Atkinson Rpt), and appendices, File, Ordnance 
Report II Corps Sicilian Campaign 10 July to 15 
August 1945, OHF. Most failure: of the 155-mm. 
howitzers were due to the short life of the recoil 
mechanism. See Project Supporting Paper No. 80, 
Medium Artillery Weapons, Design, Development 
and Production of the 155MM Howitzer and 4.5 
Gun, OHF. 

47 ( 1 ) Hist 83d HM Co, pp. 24-25. (2) Atkinson 
Rpt. (3) Medaris Ltr, 15 Aug 43. (4) II Corps Ord 
Sec Diary, 10 Aug 43. 



Not until 8 August did the 42d Mainte- 
nance and Supply Battalion arrive at the 
front with the experienced 991st Heavy 
Maintenance Tank Company. 48 By then, 
the campaign was nearly over. The enemy 
was withdrawing, although he slowed 
the Allied advance as much as he could 
with delaying actions and demolitions. 
Along the north coast road, Truscott's 
3d Division, aided by an adroit amphibi- 
ous landing behind the enemy's front 
at San Fratello, pushed quickly on to Mes- 
sina. On 16 August a battery of 155-mm. 
howitzers was wheeled into position on the 
coast road and fired a hundred rounds 
on the Italian mainland — the first U.S. 
ground attack on the continent of Europe. 
The next day Truscott's infantry was in 
Messina, only a few minutes before an 
officer from Montgomery's Eighth Army 
raced in. The Germans had made good 
their escape across the Strait of Messina— 
but the battle for Sicily had been won. 

The Evidence at the End 

The Sicily Campaign ended thirty-eight 
days after the landings on the beaches. 
Short in time, it was a "first" in several 
respects — the first massive amphibious 
landing, the first use of DUKW's in an in- 
vasion, the first attempt to supply combat 
forces for thirty days over beaches. It was 
also the first test of army support of corps, 
though not perhaps a really fair one be- 
cause it was so brief. 

General Bradley was critical of the Sev- 
enth Army for not giving him enough sup- 
port; his supply officers, after an attempt 
by army to borrow trucks from corps, re- 



AS Ibid.. 8 Aug 43. 



170 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



marked, "We seem to be backing Army 
instead of Army backing us." 49 Colonel 
Medaris continued to maintain that corps, 
not army, should be made responsible for 
maintenance and ammunition service in 
the forward areas. 50 

On the other hand, II Corps had moved 
very fast in an advance as far from base as 
an advance across France to the German 
border would have been. The supply lines 
had been long and difficult — more dif- 
ficult, reported General Lucas (observer 
for General Eisenhower) than Bradley 
probably realized. Lucas, traveling from 
Algiers to the front lines, saw no real break- 
downs in supply, and praised the hard- 
working Seventh Army staff. Colonel 
Nixon, convinced as were Niblo and Me- 
daris, that Ordnance service ought to be as 
close to the front as possible, had sent main- 
tenance and ammunition men forward 
from Palermo as soon as he became aware 
of the need for them. They arrived too 
late, but this was mainly because com- 
munications between army and corps were 
never adequate. When General Lucas vis- 
ited General Bradley at his command post 
on 14 August, Bradley told him that army 
did not maintain telephone lines to corps 
and that no army staff officer had ever 
visited him. On the vital matter of am- 
munition, Major Ray, Medaris' ammuni- 
tion officer, was appalled at the lack of 
liaison and communication between for- 
ward ammunition supply dumps, army 



49 (1) Ibid., 11 Aug 43. (2) Ltr, Bradley to 
TAG, 1 Sep 43, sub: Report of Operation of II 
Corps in the Sicilian Campaign. (3) Lucas Diary. 
Sicily, 14 Aug 43. 

50 ( 1 ) Medaris Ltr, 1 5 Aug 43. ( 2 ) Ltr, Medaris to 
Borden, 21 Aug 43, Folder NATOUSA REPORT 
(Col. Medaris to Col. Borden) 9 Sep 43, OHF. 



headquarters, and the Engineer special 
brigade. 51 

The combat troops had had enough 
weapons and ammunition, thanks to less 
enemy opposition than had been anticipated 
and to the sheer bulk of materiel. By 
D-day plus 5 it was plain that too many 
supplies had been brought in; army 
stopped the flow after the UGS-i 1 convoy. 
Of supplies shipped to Sicily, 50,714 long 
tons were ammunition (7,500 were ex- 
pended) and 18,617 l° n g tons were Class 
II and IV Ordnance supplies; the total for 
Ordnance accounted for more than half of 
the materiel supplied by all the technical 
services. At the same time, many of the 
weapons that had been taken from stocks 
in North Africa were old or obsolete, and 
there were never enough trucks and truck 
parts to meet the insatiable demands. 52 

Ordnance service at the front in the 
short campaign had indicated the need for 
more automotive companies, proportional- 
ly; for a collecting company with recovery 
and evacuation equipment; and for more 
men trained on heavy artillery. It had 
confirmed Medaris in his conviction that 
versatility was more to be desired than spe- 
cialization. Sicily had provided the first 
experience with antiaircraft maintenance 
companies, and it was disappointing. The 
men were trained mainly to service direc- 
tors, and the 40-mm. antiaircraft guns in 
the forward areas seldom used director con- 
trol. Ordnance officers strongly recom- 
mended that if such companies were kept, 
they be trained also to repair vehicles, but 
Medaris felt that a better solution was to 



51 (1) Lucas Diary, Sicily, 14 Aug 43. (2) 
Seventh Army Rpt, Report of the Ordnance Of- 
ficer, p. K-7. (3) Ray Ltr, 26 Aug 43. 

r ' 2 Msg, Algiers to War No. W-9322, 6 Sep 43, 
ASF Planning Div. Theater Br, 12 General. 



THE SHORT CAMPAIGN IN SICILY 



171 



attach antiaircraft maintenance sections to 
ordinary maintenance companies. Another 
new type of company that was felt to be 
wasteful of personnel was the bomb dis- 
posal company; most officers preferred sep- 
arate squads. 53 

The ammunition companies had been 
controlled by the Engineer special brigade. 
Under this arrangement, reported Major 
Ray, ammunition supply had been "char- 
acterized throughout the campaign by ig- 
norance on the part of personnel in rear 
areas, and by lack of control of types 
shipped to forward areas." 54 Ray strongly 
urged that Ordnance in the future keep 
control of ammunition companies. He also 
recommended a revision and simplification 
of Ordnance Field Manual 9-6, which set 
up ammunition supply procedures. Ray's 
critique contained, in Medaris' opinion, 
much food for thought and many practical 
suggestions. When it was sent back to the 
Ordnance Department, it was given re- 
spectful attention because it came from 
actual battle experience in both North 
Africa and Sicily and was used in revising 
the manual. 55 



Before the summer of 1943 had ended, 
Ordnance officers in the Mediterranean 
had learned much about the use of men 
and about supply methods and were able 
to apply these lessons in several ways. 
Colonel Coffey had set up in Oran a stock 
control system that was eventually to help 
locate unidentified, "lost" stocks; Colonel 
Crawford and Lt. Col. William G. Hynds. 
Coffey's assistant, had returned to the 
United States and persuaded the New York 
Port of Embarkation to edit requisitions 
less stringently. Crawford had also ar- 
ranged for an eye-witness report on Ord- 
nance support of invasions. Beginning with 
Sicily, he sent at least one representative 
from his AFHQ section, temporarily as- 
signed to army staff, to observe Ordnance 
operations. Maj. William H. Connerat, Jr., 
of AFHQ went to Sicily with the first con- 
tingent. His report, submitted on 2 Au- 
gust 1943, was carefully studied by Colo- 
nel Niblo who, as Ordnance officer of Fifth 
Army, was planning for Ordnance sup- 
port of the invasion of Italy, soon to take 
place. 56 



53 (1) Ltr, Bradley to TAG, 1 Sep 43, sub: 
Report of Operation of II Corps in the Sicilian 
Campaign, app. F, p. 1. (2) Medaris Ltr, 15 Aug 
43- (3) Connerat Rpt. (4) Farmer Memo, 3 Aug 
43- 

"Ray Ltr, 26 Aug 43. 

55 ( 1 ) Memo, Ray for Ordnance Officer II Corps, 
15 Aug 43, sub: Informal Report to Chief of 



Ordnance, O.O. 350.05/6136. (2) Medaris Ltr, 15 
Aug 43. (3) Ltr, Campbell to Medaris, 9 Sep 43, 
NATOUSA Letter, Personal to Gen Campbell, 15 
August 1943, OHF. 

58 ( 1 ) Ltr, Campbell to Coffey, 4 Aug 43. (2) 
Ltr, Coffey to Campbell. Both in Campbell Over- 
seas File. (3) History Ord Serv MTO, ch. VII. 
(4) Crawford Interv. 



CHAPTER X 



Salerno and the Growth of 
Fifth Army Ordnance Service 



A month before the invasion of Sicily, 
Prime Minister Churchill told the House 
of Commons that "the mellow light of vic- 
tory" had begun to play upon the great 
expanse of World War II. In Tunisia the 
Axis forces had surrendered ; fewer U-boats 
were harassing the Atlantic shipping lanes; 
on the Eastern Front the Russians had driv- 
en the Germans back to the Donetz River 
Basin; in the Pacific, operations against the 
Central Solomons and the Bismarcks Bar- 
rier were about to begin. 

On the next move in Europe and the 
Mediterranean, the British and Americans 
were reaching agreement. At the British- 
American conference (Trident) in Wash- 
ington in May 1943 the Americans, who 
wanted to get on with the attack across the 
English Channel, had got the British to 
agree to a target date of 1 May 1944 and 
a force of 29 divisions, of which 4 Amer- 
ican and 3 British would be withdrawn 
from the Mediterranean; the British, who 
wanted to invade Italy in order to pin down 
as many German divisions as possible and 
provide bases to bomb Germany from the 
south, had obtained the assent of the Amer- 
icans to another landing in the Mediter- 
ranean after Sicily. 

At first Italy was not specified — could 
not be, in the American view, until the 
outcome in Sicily was known — and plans 



made during the early summer encom- 
passed several operations. By mid-July, 
however, the chances for a short campaign 
in Sicily looked so good that planning was 
centered on Italy. Toward the end of the 
month the prognosis looked better still. 
Benito Mussolini was ousted from the Ital- 
ian Government, and negotiations with 
Marshal Pietro Badoglio, his successor, ex- 
cited hopes that Italy would get out of the 
war. To take advantage of an Italian col- 
lapse, the Allies on 26 July agreed that 
General Eisenhower should plan to make 
an amphibious assault in the vicinity of 
Naples as soon as possible. The bay of 
Salerno was determined upon, and the 
operation, named Avalanche and set for 
9 September, was assigned to General 
Clark's Fifth Army, consisting of the U.S. 
VI Corps and the British 10 Corps. As 
soon after Sicily as possible, General Mont- 
gomery's Eighth Army would cross the 
Strait of Messina in a diversionary opera- 
tion. Both armies would come under Gen- 
eral Sir Harold R. L. G. Alexander's 15th 
Army Group. 1 



1 ( 1 ) Maurice Matloff, Strategic Planning for 
Coalition Warfare, i943~44, UNITED STATES 
ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1959), 
pp. 160-61, 246. (2) Morison, Sicily-Salerno- An- 
zio, pp. 228-33. (3) Clark, Calculated Risk, pp. 
174-79. (4) For the tactical history of early 
operations in Italy see Martin Blumenson, Salerno 



SALERNO AND THE FIFTH ARMY ORDNANCE SERVICE 



173 



Between the fall of Mussolini and the 
invasion of Italy, begun by General Mont- 
gomery on 3 September, forty days of pre- 
cious time were lost. In answering critics 
who ascribed the delay to unnecessarily 
prolonged negotiations with Marshal Ba- 
doglio, Prime Minister Churchill pointed 
out that landing craft could not be with- 
drawn from Sicily until the first week in 
August and then had to be taken back to 
Africa for repair and reloading. General 
Marshall, who was irritated by the slow- 
ness in mounting the operation, thought 
the logistical officers too cautious. 2 What- 
ever the reason for the delay, in those forty 
days the Germans brought thirteen divisions 
into Italy, occupied Rome and Naples, and 
even held exercises to repel invaders at Sa- 
lerno — the obvious spot for a landing, since 
it was as far north as the Allies could go 
and still have fighter cover. 3 

When the Fifth Army's first assault wave 
neared shore before dawn on 9 September, 
from the shore a loud speaker blared in 
English, "Come on in and give up. We 
have you covered!" 4 Though this sounded 
like a Wild West movie, the Germans were 
not bluffing. Very nearly throwing the 
invaders back into the sea, the Germans 
pinned them down on the beaches for 
about ten days before withdrawing north 



to Cassino, a volume in preparation for the UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II. 

2 ( 1 ) Winston S. Churchill, "The Second World 
War," Closing the Ring (Boston, Houghton Mif- 
flin Co., 1 95 1 ) , p. 156. (2) Interv, Gen George 
C. Marshall by Maj Roy Lamson, Maj David 
Hamilton, Dr. Sidney T. Mathews, and Dr. Howard 
M. Smyth, 25 Jul 49, OCMH. 

3 (i) Morison, Sicily-Salerno-Anzio, 249-50. 
(2) Rpt on Italian Campaign 3 Sep 43-2 May 
45 from the viewpoint of the German High Com- 
mand (written from German sources), p. 8, 
OCMH. 

4 History Fifth Army I, 32. 



to take up strong defensive positions that 
kept the Allies in Italy, storming mountain 
after mountain, until the end of the war in 
Europe. 

Beyond Naples, which fell on 1 October, 
was the Volturno River and the strong 
German Winter Line. That penetrated — 
it took until mid-January 1944 in winter 
mud to do it — there was the even stronger 
Gustav Line anchored at Mount Cassino 
and further protected by the swift Rapido 
and Garigliano Rivers. To overcome the 
Gustav Line and break out into the Liri 
Valley leading to Rome, ninety miles away, 
took four months of grueling struggle 
through torrents of rain and snow and 
lakes of mud. An attempt to hasten the 
breakthrough by landing behind the Ger- 
man line at Anzio on the coast below 
Rome did not succeed. Rome did not fall 
until 4 June 1944, only two days before 
D-day in Normandy. After the capture of 
Rome, seven veteran divisions were drawn 
off for the invasion of southern France. 
The remainder, plus new divisions of vary- 
ing nationalities, pushed forward in Italy, 
but were caught by winter at the final 
barrier in the high Apennines and could 
not break through until March 1945. 

Whatever the merits of this slow, ar- 
duous, expensive, and much-criticized bat- 
tering operation up the Italian peninsula, 
the campaigns required a heavy weight of 
Ordnance support. Fortunately General 
Clark had an Ordnance officer who was 
more than equal to the job. Veteran of 
Torch and the Tunisia Campaign, Col. 
Urban Niblo had shown that he was in- 
ventive, vigorous, and resourceful. He had 
very definite opinions, especially as to the 
organization of Ordnance service, but he 
was always willing to profit by mistakes 



174 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



and never hesitated to "throw away the 
book" when necessary. In this ill-starred 
theater, he was to need all the resourceful- 
ness he could command. 5 

One problem in Avalanche plaguing 
other Fifth Army sections, the Engineers 
for example, did not trouble the Ordnance 
Section. That was the difficulty of mesh- 
ing British and American logistical support 
of Fifth Army, which consisted of the U.S. 
VI Corps and the British 10 Corps. In the 
case of Ordnance, the differences in the 
connotation of the word ordnance and in 
the organizations that performed parallel 
functions in the British and U.S. Armies 
made separate services necessary. For that 
reason the British 10 Corps had its own ord- 
nance support, which was supplied from 
the same line of communications (known 
as Fortbase) that supplied Montgomery's 
Eighth Army; Fifth Army Ordnance Serv- 
ice, organized by Niblo, supported the 
American portion of Fifth Army — the por- 
tion soon to be predominant. 6 

Niblo's Group Organization 

On i September 1943 Colonel Niblo sent 
General Campbell a handwritten V-mail 
note informing him that Colonel Rose 
was that day giving birth to a new provi- 
sional Ordnance group, and added "bas- 
tard as it is, I have confidence it will live 



5 (i) Crawford Interv. (2) Brig Gen Urban 
Niblo, Lessons of World War II, OHF. (3) Colonel 
Borden reported to General Campbell that "General 
Clark spoke very highly of Niblo and is very con- 
fident in his ability." Memo, Borden for Campbell, 
7 Jun 43, sub: Outstanding Ordnance Officers Con- 
tacted, Campbell Overseas File. 

*(i) Engineer History-Fifth Army-Mediterra- 
nean Theater, vol. I, p. II, OHF. (2) History of 
AFHQ, pt. Two, sec. 1, pp. 149, 179; sec. 4, pp. 
513-14, OCMH. (3) Montgomery, El Alamein to 
the River Sangro. pp. 116, 154. 



and be even more successful than its pred- 
ecessor." The unit was illegitimate be- 
cause the War Department had not yet 
given final approval to a permanent or- 
ganization of this kind. During the sum- 
mer of 1943 the Army Ground Forces 
headquarters was working on a combat 
zone Ordnance group organization, and 
was even reported to favor an Ordnance 
brigade to control the work of the groups. 
But the War Department did not author- 
ize group headquarters for AGF service 
units until mid-October of 1943, and there 
was no TOE for an Ordnance combat zone 
group until the appearance of TOE 9-12 
on 15 April 1944. 7 

Colonel Niblo's reason for jumping the 
gun on the War Department was that he 
wanted a staff that would be adequate to 
"administer, operate, and command" Fifth 
Army Ordnance service. On the day he 
obtained his provisional group, 1 Septem- 
ber 1943, a year had passed since Ord- 
nance had received responsibility for sup- 
plying and repairing trucks and other ve- 
hicles. That task now accounted for about 
80 percent of the total Ordnance work 
load, yet the War Department had done 
nothing to enlarge the army Ordnance 
officer's staff, which was (prior to the es- 
tablishment of the Provisional Ordnance 
Group) limited to the 38 men ( 1 1 officers, 
1 warrant officer, 26 enlisted men) pro- 
vided in the table of organization for an 
army headquarters (T/O 200-1) dated 1 



7 ( 1 ) Ltrs, Niblo to Campbell, 1 Sep 43; Camp- 
bell to Niblo, 17 Sep 43. Both in Campbell Over- 
seas File. (2) Fifth Army GO 64, 1 Sep 43, 105- 
1.13 (48999) General Orders-Fifth Army Jan- 
Dec 43. (3) WD Cir 256, 16 Oct 43. (4) Memo, 
CofS AGF for CG, AGF, 15 Jul 44, sub: Activa- 
tion of Hq Detachment, Ordnance Groups and 
Shipment of Ordnance Groups, ASF Planning 
Div, Theater Br, ETO, vol. VII, Troop Units 1944. 



SALERNO AND THE FIFTH ARMY ORDNANCE SERVICE 



175 



July 1942, a complement considerably less 
than half the strength of the Quartermaster 
Section of 84 men and far behind the En- 
gineers with 72, and the Signal Corps with 
66. Moreover, the Engineer and Signal 
Sections were organized according to their 
own service tables of organization, T/O 
5-200-1 and T/O 1 1 -200-1, respectively. 8 
In the fall of 1942 Ordnance planners 
in the United States had tried to strengthen 
the hand of the Ordnance officer at army 
level. In the campaigns to come he would 
have to carry a heavy burden of admin- 
istration — from which corps was now freed; 
his responsibility for motor transport was 
certain to be enormous; and it seemed 
very likely that other duties would require 
efforts far beyond anything hitherto de- 
manded of him. For example, the respon- 
sibility for recovering materiel from the bat- 
tlefield, which required Ordnance troops 
to be present in the combat zone, was cited 
by General Campbell in November 1942 
when he requested Army Service Forces to 
redesignate the Ordnance Department a 
supply arm, rather than a supply service. 
General Somervell turned down the re- 
quest. 9 Attempts to obtain War Depart- 
ment approval for an Army Ordnance 
Command at army headquarters, with an 
enlarged staff consisting of a headquar- 
ters and headquarters company organized 
under T/O 9-200-1, also came to nothing. 



8 (1) Niblo Interv of 28 Sep 55. (2) Ltr, Niblo 
to Chief Ord Officer, NATOUSA, 20 Jul 43, sub: 
Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Fifth 
Army Ordnance Command, History Ord Service 
MTO, vol. I, ch. II, Annex F. (3) WD Table 
of Organization No. 200-1, 1 Jul 42. Head- 
quarters, Army. 

9 Ltr, Campbell to CG Services of Supply, n.d.. 
sub: Redesignation of the Ordnance Department as 
a Supply Arm; 1st Ind, 2 Dec 42, ASF Planning 
Div. Both in Folder Ordnance Department. Gen 
Styer's File. 



General McNair's dislike of large army 
headquarters and his horror of excess paper 
work in the theaters made any sizable in- 
crease impossible during 1943. 10 

At Fifth Army — the first U.S. army ac- 
tivated overseas — Colonel Ford as Ord- 
nance officer had tried to obtain an Army 
Ordnance Command organized on an 
operational basis, and Niblo had continued 
the effort, but they had failed. By late 
July, faced with the probability that Fifth 
Army combat operations would require as 
many as 36 Ordnance companies, Niblo 
was ready to welcome "any workable solu- 
tion or plan . . . rather than further delay 
in search of a perfect T/O & T/E 9-200- 
i." 11 Reports that came back from the 
Sicily Campaign showed clearly that an 
Ordnance officer with a weak staff was 
badly handicapped. 12 In the end, Niblo's 
answer was the group organization. 

There was one important difference be- 
tween the new group, which was designated 
the 6694th Ordnance Group (Provisional), 
and its predecessor, the 1st Provisional Ord- 
nance Group. Instead of commanding it 
himself, as he had the POG when he 
formed it as Ordnance officer of II Corps, 
Colonel Niblo placed his executive officer, 
Colonel Rose, at the head, delegating to 



10 ( 1 ) Memo, Col Robert W. Daniels, AGF Ord 
Officer, for Key Ord Officers, 24 Nov 42, sub: 
Ground Force Ordnance Units, History Ord Serv- 
ice MTO, vol. I, ch. II, Annex H. (2) Greenfield. 
Palmer, and Wiley, The Organization of Ground 
Combat Troops, pp. 359-61. (3) Ltr, Medaris to 
Daniels, 8 Nov 43, no sub, ETO Ord Sec 320.3 
Organization of British Army, KCRC. (4) WD 
T/O 200-1 as revised 26 Dec 43. 

11 Ltr, Niblo to Chief Ordnance Officer NATO- 
USA, 20 Jul 43, sub: Headquarters and Head- 
quarters Company, Fifth Army Ordnance Com- 
mand, and Incls 1-6, Hist Ord Serv MTO, vol. I, 
ch. II, Annex F. 

12 ( 1 ) MacMorland Rpt, pp. 19-20. (2) Con- 
nerat Rpt, p. 1 1. 



176 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



him all operation and command of army 
Ordnance battalions and envisaging the 
Ordnance Section of Fifth Army head- 
quarters as a policy-forming, advisory, and 
planning unit only. 13 Rose, after com- 
manding two battalions in the early part 
of the Tunisia Campaign, had gone to 
Fifth Army with his old commander, and 
in April had been sent to the British Eighth 
Army to study its organization. 14 

For the important job of maintenance 
and supply officer of the Fifth Army Ord- 
nance Section, Niblo had Colonel Moffitt, 
who also had come to North Africa with 
him. Moffitt had served as a battalion 
commander throughout the Tunisia Cam- 
paign and had gone to Sicily as commander 
of the 42d Ordnance Battalion. After the 
Sicily Campaign was over Colonel Me- 
daris, on leaving for England to become 
Ordnance officer of First Army, recom- 
mended Moffitt to succeed him as Ord- 
nance officer of II Corps. However, Niblo 
was able to obtain his services and Moffitt 
reported for duty in August 1943. With 
the 20 men in Rose's headquarters and the 
31 planned for the advance and rear eche- 
lons of Niblo's staff, there were 51 experi- 
enced men for staff duties and command 
operations. 15 



13 Ltr, Crawford to CofOrd, 29 Feb 44, sub: 
Technical Letter No. 19, MTO Ord Sec 400.113, 
KCRC. 

14 Ltr, Rose to Niblo, 2 May 43, sub: Report 
on Special Duty with the Eighth Army, MTO 
Ord Sec 319-1, KCRC. 

15 Ltr, Niblo to CG Fifth Army, 2 Oct 43, sub: 
Initial Bi-Weekly Report of Army Ordnance Service, 
Covering the Period 9 September to 30 September, 
1943, Incl 1, Organization of Army Ordnance Serv- 
ice as existing on 30 September 1943, Fifth Army 
Ordnance Officer's Bi-Weekly Reports to the Army 
Commander, Book Number 1, OHF. (Hereafter 
these reports will be cited as Niblo Rpt, with ap- 
propriate date.) 



Having succeeded in obtaining an ade- 
quate staff, Niblo went a step further in 
planning Fifth Army Ordnance Service. He 
wanted a second group headquarters to be 
used to control the composite battalions 
sent forward in direct support of VI Corps, 
but such a unit was not available in the 
theater and could not be obtained from the 
War Department. Some three months 
later, after the strength of the German re- 
sistance was evident to all, Niblo was able 
to organize three groups — one for forward 
third echelon work, one for ammunition 
supply, and one for operations in the rear. 16 
For the time being, however, he placed 
under the 6694th Ordnance Group the four 
battalions planned for the campaign : one 
for ammunition; one for third echelon sup- 
port of the VI Corps infantry divisions; 
one for repair of corps and army trucks, 
DUKW's, and other motor vehicles; and 
one to do fourth echelon work on tanks 
and other heavy maintenance. 17 

The group headquarters and most of the 
battalions were to land in Italy on D plus 
12, 21 September, when the bulk of Fifth 
Army was scheduled to arrive. The Amer- 
ican D-day combat forces were VI Corps 
headquarters, the 36th Infantry Division 
(fresh from the United States), one tank 
battalion, and a floating reserve consisting 
of a reinforced regimental combat team of 
the veteran 45th Division. The Americans 
were to land at Paestum, the British 10 



16 ( 1 ) Ltr, Crawford to CofOrd, 29 Feb 44, 
sub: Technical Letter No. 19, MTO Ord Sec 
400.113, KCRC. (2) Army Ordnance Administra- 
tive Instructions 28, 10 Dec 43, sub: Army Ord- 
nance Service, in Niblo Rpts, OHF. Unless other- 
wise indicated, all Army Ordnance Administrative 
Instructions hereafter cited are from this file. 

17 Outline Plan Avalanche Operation, 26 Aug 
43, Annex II, pt. II, U.S. Troops, Red Vault 
(Fifth Army). 



SALERNO AND THE FIFTH ARMY ORDNANCE SERVICE 



177 



Corps with two divisions a few miles farther 
north, near Salerno. The Avalanche 
plan of 26 August was based on the as- 
sumption that the Italian resistance would 
approximate that in Husky — which was 
very little — and that Germany's commit- 
ments in the USSR would continue to hold 
the bulk of the German ground and air 
force on the Soviet front. 18 

Optimism grew after Italy's surrrender 
to the Allies on 3 September. Aboard 
ship just before sailing with the D-day con- 
voy on 5 September, General Clark seemed 
to think there would not be much opposi- 
tion. He even talked of the possibility that 
one of his follow-up divisions might land as 
far north as Rome. Some of the news- 
paper correspondents understood General 
Eisenhower to say that the Allied forces 
would be in Rome by mid-December or 
very soon thereafter. The British were 
optimistic too. On the evening of 7 Sep- 
tember a member of Admiral Sir Andrew 
B. Cunningham's staff came aboard the 
Boise, one of the ships in the D-day convoy 
then steaming toward Italy, with the news 
that the landing in the harbor of Salerno 
would be unopposed. 19 

These miscalculations were not fatal to 
the Allied cause, although they came near 
being so to the American beachhead on 
the evening of 14-15 September, when 
General Clark was faced with the possibil- 



18 ( 1 ) Ibid. (2) The D-day convoy carried 
105,000 C rations to feed the 15,000 prisoners that 

VI Corps was expected to capture in the first 
seven days. Red Vault Fifth Army G-4 History 
of Opn Avalanche — Salerno, Jul-Oct 43. 

19 ( 1 ) Truscott, Command Missions, p. 247. (2) 
Christopher Buckley, The Road to Rome (London, 
'945)5 P- 226. (3) George Biddle, Artist at War 
(New York: Viking Press, 1944), p. 126. (4) 
Alan Moorehead, Eclipse (New York: Coward- 
McCann, 1945), p. 60. 



ity of being driven back to the sea.- Their 
main effect was to disarrange the schedule 
of the follow-up landings. The necessity 
for sending in fresh combat troops ahead 
of time, out of proportion to the service 
elements already landed, placed a great 
strain on the supporting units. Additional 
combat troops were landed in Italy while 
the Ordnance companies assigned to sup- 
port them were still in North Africa and 
Sicily. Niblo's carefully worked out task 
assignments soon had to be revised. After 
II Corps was sent to the aid of VI Corps 
early in October, his whole organization 
had to be taken apart, reorganized, and 
considerably enlarged. By mid-November 
the 6694th Ordnance Group was compara- 
ble in size to a brigade. The Italian cam- 
paign was destined to be the first real test 
of Ordnance field service in direct support 
of ground forces; according to Colonel Cof- 
fey, "the first true large-scale proving 
>und." 21 



groi 



'Hell in the Dunes' 



Colonel Niblo planned carefully for 
Avalanche. The report on Sicily by Maj. 
William H. Connerat, Jr., had shown clear- 
ly that more weapons and ammunition had 
been landed there than the men could 



20 Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 198. See Morison, 
Sicily-Salerno-Anzio, pp. 293-94, for the plan to 
shift troops from the American to the British 
beachhead. 

21 ( 1 ) Memo, Col Garland H. Williams for 
Director, Planning Div, 6 Jan 44, sub: Notes on 
Italian Campaign, Folder, Lessons Learned, ASF 
Planning Div, Theater Br. (2) Col Niblo, quoted 
in AGF Board Report, 26 Nov 43, sub: Comments 
from North African Theater, ASF Planning Div, 
Theater Br, General File 17. (3) Army Ordnance 
Admin Instr 2, 14 Oct 43. (4) Ltr, Coffey to 
Niblo n.d., quoted in Army Ordnance Admin Instr 
15, 9 Nov 43, OHF. 



178 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



classify or segregate. For the Italian land- 
ing, Niblo scaled down the amount of sup- 
plies, arranging for the bulk to come in on 
the convoy due on D plus 12, and sent in 
more Ordnance troops. He also took along 
some experienced officers to direct beach- 
head operations. As commander of the 
Avalanche maintenance battalion, the 
45th, he had Lt. Col. Henry L. McGrath, 
who was Colonel Crawford's executive at 
AFHQ Ordnance Section and had been an 
observer of the landing in Sicily. To di- 
rect ammunition operations Niblo was able 
to obtain Maj. Daniel F. Shepherd, Craw- 
ford's ammunition officer. The DUKW 
repair expert in the landing was Capt. 
Herbert A. Suddard of the Amphibian 
Vehicle School at Fifth Army's Invasion 
Training Center, who had made a study of 
DUKW maintenance in the invasion of Sic- 
ily. There was nothing wrong with Niblo's 
planning — but Salerno was to be quite dif- 
ferent from Sicily. 22 

On the evening before D-day, as the at- 
tacking forces were sailing toward the Gulf 
of Salerno on a calm sea silvered by the 
moon, General Eisenhower's voice over the 
radios announced to the troops the sur- 
render of Italy. Shouts from the whole 
fleet echoed over the Mediterranean. In 
his cabin on the Ancon General Clark was 
discussing with his staff "such pleasant pos- 
sibilities as a direct move into Naples Har- 
bor"; one Air Forces unit was so certain of 
landing at Naples that it dewaterproofed 
its vehicles aboard ship. Some infantry- 
men of the 36th Division proposed to go 
in with unloaded weapons, some com- 



plained that they would not have a chance 
to fight. 23 

What they got was "hell in the dunes." 24 
As the assault forces neared the beaches the 
Germans opened up with artillery, mortar, 
and machine gun fire. The machine gun 
fire came from the most seaward dunes, 
about 20 to 70 yards behind the shore line; 
artillery fire from farther back, where a 
flat plain extended inland three to five 
miles before giving way to a mountain 
range. Tanks roamed the plain and even 
came down to the beaches; two of them 
fired on small landing craft and had to be 
driven off by gunfire from an LST. Mine 
fields and heavy shellfire closed two of the 
southernmost beaches for several hours. 
The dodging, circling landing craft and 
DUKW's were forced to land wherever they 
could. But in spite of the German barrage, 
which increased with the first light, the 
cursing, sweating shore parties made roads, 
laid out beach dumps, and began to un- 
load. By midmorning the situation was 
better. Naval guns (at first silent to gain 
surprise) had gone into action; the men on 
the beaches had driven back tanks with ba- 
zookas and the invaluable 105-mm. howit- 
zer; and the infantry, recovering from the 
first shock, climbed out of foxholes and 
began to push out toward the hills. By 
midafternoon men, vehicles, and supplies 
were crossing the beaches at a fast pace. 20 



22 ( 1 ) Crawford Interview. (2) Interv with 
McGrath, 8 May 57. (3) Ltr, Crawford to OCO, 
19 Oct 43, sub: Technical Information Letter 
No. 15, MTO Ord Sec 400.1 13, KCRC. 



23 (1) Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 187. (a) Bel- 
den, Still Time to Die, p. 291. (3) Capt Madison 
Post for Gen Coffey, 14 Oct 43, sub: Trip Report 
(hereafter cited as Post Rpt), p. 5, Folder, Fifth 
Army Operation Avalanche, Report of Captain 
Madison Post, OHF. (4) Company E History, in 
History 531st Engr Shore Regt, 2d Bn, 20 Aug- 
30 Sep 43, p. 9. 

24 History Co E, p. 12. 

^Company histories in History 531st Engr 
Shore Regt, 2d Bn and 3d Bn, 20 Aug-30 Sep 43. 
For the best detailed official account of the land- 



SALERNO AND THE FIFTH ARMY ORDNANCE SERVICE 



179 



The Ordnance men began landing at 
0900. There were detachments from seven 
companies: two ammunition, the 66th and 
the 2652d (provisional) ; two automotive 
maintenance, the 3485th and the 3486th, 
the latter primarily for DUKW's; two me- 
dium maintenance, the 46th and the 28th, 
the latter primarily for antiaircraft mainte- 
nance; and a depot, the 189th. All were 
ashore by 1900 and working in the Engi- 
neer dumps and motor pool. For the first 
three days they were attached to the 531st 
Engineer Shore Regiment; on 12 Septem- 
ber they reverted to VI Corps and were 
placed under the newly arrived 45th Ord- 
nance Battalion headquarters, all except 
the men of the DUKW repair company, 
who were left under the Engineers a few 
days longer to work at the beachheads. 26 

As a result of the disrupted landing plans 
and congested beaches, Ordnance shop 
trucks, tools, and other equipment were 
late getting ashore or were landed on the 
wrong beaches and could not be found. 
All the detachments except the 46th's were 
without proper tools and equipment for 
the first three or four days. This was es- 
pecially serious for the truck and DUKW 
mechanics, who always bore most of the 
maintenance burden in beachhead opera- 
tions. With only hand tools and almost 
no spare parts, the men did their best, 
cannibalizing wrecked vehicles and bor- 
rowing tools from the Engineers until D 



ings see Vice Adm H. K. Hewitt, The Italian 
Campaign, Western Naval Task Force, Action 
Report of the Salerno Landings, September-Oc- 
tober, 1943, Jan 45 (hereafter cited as Western 
Naval Task Force Rpt) . 

26 (1) Post Rpt, p. 7. (2) History 531st Engr 
Shore Regt, 20 Aug-30 Sep 43, pp. 3, 9-10. (3) 
45th Ordnance Battalion (M&S), Historical Rec- 
ord, 1 Sep to 30 Sep 43. 



plus 3, when the technical vehicles of the 
46th, the bulk of the company, and about 
200 tons of supplies landed. The little 18- 
man detachment of the 189th Depot Com- 
pany was perhaps worse off than any other 
unit. It had no jeeps to use in searching 
the beaches or any trucks or cranes to use 
in hauling and stacking the mountainous 
supplies piled haphazardly on the beaches. 
Without transportation, the men even had 
trouble getting rations and water. 27 

The ammunition men were better off 
than they had been in the invasion of Sic- 
ily, but the confusion that everyone had 
come to expect in amphibious operations 
was just as great. For example, a box con- 
taining most of the 155-mm. howitzer 
primers got lost among the piles of rations 
and other supplies and caused a dangerous 
shortage in 155-mm. howitzer ammunition 
in the first few days. Ammunition arrived 
at the dumps in nearly every combination 
conceivable; a single DUKW would bring 
in as many as 2 1 types. But unlike their 
predecessors in Husky, the ammunition 
detachments in Avalanche had 2 /2-ton 
trucks to use in arranging their dumps and 
could thus segregate types and make issues 
without errors. This time, there was no over- 
supply to burden transportation, and Ord- 
nance, not the Engineers, was in control. 
Major Shepherd got ashore shortly after 
noon on D-day to supervise the beach 
dumps, unofficially ; on D plus 2 he was offi- 
cially attached to the Engineer shore regi- 
ment to control all ammunition and saw to it 
that there were no shortages. For being able 
to anticipate the combat troops' require- 
ments and thus get critical ammunition 
unloaded on time, for "unselfish devotion 
to duty, coolness under fire, and capable 



Post Rpt, pp. 7-9. 



180 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



leadership," he was given a commendation 
by General Clark. 28 

Colonel McGrath, who arrived with the 
headquarters of the 45th Ordnance Bat- 
talion on the evening of D plus 2, and 
Major Shepherd ran the show very com- 
petently for the first twelve days. Niblo's 
invasion staff paid off handsomely. Cap- 
tain Suddard, sent to Maiori with an Ord- 
nance detachment of 4 officers and 50 en- 
listed men to support Colonel Darby's Ran- 
ger Task Force, worked hard and long 
under enemy shellfire and bombing. For 
this he received a promotion to major — the 
first battlefield promotion of an Ordnance 
officer or of any service branch officer. 29 

McGrath rounded up the Ordnance de- 
tachments scattered along the beaches and 
assembled them at his battalion bivouac 
area two miles north of Paestum, the ruins 
of an ancient town just behind the Amer- 
ican beaches, distinguished by a conical 
stone watchtower and the Doric columns of 
two temples. On the morning of the 1 3th, 
the day the Germans counterattacked, he 
set off in his jeep to make contact with the 
combat troops and the next day sent out 
contact parties from the 46th Ordnance 



28 (1) Post Rpt, p. 10. (2) App. No. E, G-4 
Hist Rpt, Ord Sec, Period 9 September to 31 
December 1943, Red Vault Fifth Army Office 
of the Ord Officer, 9 Sep-Dec 43. (3) Niblo Rpt, 
31 Oct 43, Incl 6. (4) Ltr, Maj William O. 
Green, Div Ord Off, to CG 36th Inf Div, 24 Sep 
43, sub: Ordnance Report, Operation Avalanche, 
in Opn Avalanche Staff Sec Rpts 36th Inf Div 
9-21 Sep 43. (5) Maj Daniel F. Shepherd, Re- 
port on Operation of Ammunition Supply in Oper- 
ation Avalanche, 12 Dec 43, ETO Ord Sec 320.1, 
KCRC. 

29 (1) Crawford Interv. (2) Ltr, Niblo to CO's 
45th Ord Bn and 62d Ord Bn, 20 Sep 43, sub: 
Ordnance Support for Ranger Task Force, History 
Ord Serv MTO, ch. IV, pt. I, app. C. (3) Interv 
with Marshall S. David, 20-21 Jun 57. (4) VI 
Corps G-4 Jnl, 1 1 Sep 43. 



Company to service and resupply the weap- 
ons of the infantry and tank battalions that 
had staved off the German advance at the 
danger point near the Sele River. 30 

The first job tackled by the 45th Bat- 
talion as a whole was dewaterproofing. By 
mid-September, areas for this important 
work had been set aside behind the 
beaches; until then only the air intake pipes 
and a little of the grease had been removed 
from the vehicles. Many vehicles were 
operating without air cleaners, or without 
oil in air cleaners, in the clouds of dust 
that were everywhere; batteries and gear 
cases had not been given proper attention. 
McGrath sent details from his companies 
to the dewaterproofing areas to make cer- 
tain that the vehicles were properly checked 
and to be sure that air cleaners were in- 
stalled and filled. Trucks became even 
more immediately important when it was 
discovered that because of a favorable 
beach gradient and good weather — there 
were only small waves, no surf — they could 
be backed up to landing craft to be loaded 
and then driven to inland dumps. 31 

Supplies and reinforcements were pour- 
ing in. By 20 September the 82 d Airborne 
Division was ashore, the 3d Infantry Divi- 
sion and the rest of the 45th had been 
brought forward from Sicily, and the 34th 
Infantry Division was on the way from 
North Africa. By then the beachhead was 
secure, the enemy was withdrawing, and 
the 3d and 45th Divisions were beginning 



30 ( 1 ) Jnl 11-14 Sep in 45th Bn History. (2) 
History 46th Ord Medium Maint Co, Sep 43. The 
46th lost two men, an officer and an enlisted man 
"last seen crossing the Sele River in a jeep, not 
thereafter heard from." Ibid. For the counter- 
attack and its repulse see Fifth Army History, vol. 

I, PP- 37-4 • • 

31 (1) Jnl 15-16 Sep in 45th Bn History. (2) 
Post Rpt, pp. 4-6, 12. 



SALERNO AND THE FIFTH ARMY ORDNANCE SERVICE 



181 



the advance northward toward the next ob- 
jective, the Volturno River. The advance, 
slow in getting under way because of the un- 
expected resistance on the beaches, was 
further impeded by the Germans' skillful 
delaying tactics in blowing bridges and 
planting land mines in the path of the in- 
vaders. It was i October before the British 
10 Corps, advancing up the coast, entered 
Naples. The wrecked port, by "a miracle 
of reconstruction" 32 was placed in operation 
by 15 October but until then, as the U.S. 
VI Corps continued to press north of Naples 
in pursuit of the enemy and the first elements 
of II Corps headquarters began to arrive 
from Sicily, supplies had to come from the 
Salerno dumps. 33 

The inland dumps were managed better 
than they had been at Sicily, for at Salerno, 
because of the insistence of General Clark's 
G-4, Col. Ralph H. Tate, the service 
chiefs, not the Engineer beach group, had 
control after 12 September; and fortu- 
nately plans had called for an abnormally 
large build-up of twenty days' supply over 
the beaches. These supplies helped tre- 
mendously when more combat troops had 
to be brought in than originally planned. 
Even so, Colonel Tate "sweated blood" in 
attempting to get supplies to the front in 
the fifteen days before the port opened. 34 
For Colonel Niblo there was a stroke of 
bad luck early in the game. 

The greatest blow for Ordnance in 
Avalanche came on 21 September after 
the ordeal of the dunes was over. It took 
place not on land, but at sea where fifteen 
Liberty ships of the D plus 1 2 convoy were 



waiting to come in. One of them, the S.S. 
William W. Gherard, carried the depot 
stocks and organic equipment of the 189th 
Ordnance Depot Company — 16 vans and 
other vehicles loaded with weapons and 
spare parts. Also aboard were the supplies 
of three other companies — all the organic 
equipment of the 529th Heavy Maintenance 
Company (Tank), as well as 30 days' sup- 
ply of replacement vehicles and spare parts; 
three tank recovery units belonging to 
the 477th Evacuation Company; and 183 
boxes of bulk-stored spare parts destined 
for the 46th Medium Maintenance Com- 
pany. 35 

The danger from the guided bombs that 
sank one merchant ship and badly damaged 
another in an earlier convoy seemed to 
have abated, but submarines were begin- 
ning to worry the Navy. Three U-boats 
were reported in the southeast Tyrrhenian 
Sea in the late afternoon of 20 September. 
The next morning the Gherard was tor- 
pedoed near Point Licosa. The tug Moreno 
tried to beach her, but fire broke out in 
holds containing gasoline and ammunition, 
making salvage impossible. By dark all the 
men aboard except one had been saved, 
but the ship was a total loss. 36 So went 
down "all," reported Colonel Niblo, "re- 
peat all, Ordnance Class II supplies to sup- 
port operation Avalanche." The worst 
effect was the loss of all the spare parts 
that had been counted on for maintenance 
to D plus 17. 37 

Niblo requested replacements immediate- 



32 Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 217. 

33 Truscott, Command Missions, p. 254. 

34 ( 1 ) Interv, Brig Gen Ralph H. Tate by Dr. 
Sidney T. Mathews, 19 Jan 49, pp. 3-5, OCMH. 
(2) VI Corps G-4 Jnl. 



35 Niblo Rpt, 2 Oct 43. 

30 Western Naval Task Force Rpt, 50-52, 100- 
101. The Gherard was one of three merchant ships 
out of nearly a hundred Allied craft of all types 
sunk or damaged in the invasion, most of them by 
bombs or shellfire. Ibid., pp. 206-09. 

37 ( 1 ) Niblo, quoted in AGF Board Report, 26 
Nov 43. (2) Niblo Rpt, 31 Oct 43. 



182 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



ly, but they did not arrive until i Decem- 
ber, when the second big convoy came in. 
In the meantime there was the problem of 
resupplying small arms lost in battle — 
carbines, rifles, pistols, and bayonets — and 
supplying the newly landed combat troops, 
of which some 4,000 arrived without hand 
weapons. These items were short in North 
Africa: SOS NATOUSA had advised 
that it could not arm replacements and 
maintain the reserve as well. "There must 
be an explanation," commented Colonel 
McGrath, "but I wonder if it would be 
convincing to a doughboy short something 
he needs to fight with." 38 

Watches and binoculars were in very 
short supply. Some of the antiaircraft units 
who shot down friendly planes in the first 
ten days complained that many of their 
observers could not identify Allied mark- 
ings in time because they had no field 
glasses. Field artillery and tank destroyer 
units also suffered from the shortage. Pil- 
ferage accounted for some of the watch 
and binocular losses, but it was also true 
that more were needed for mountain fight- 
ing, which required a great number of pa- 
trols and observation posts, than had been 
called for in tables of equipment. 39 

"Uninterrupted" Ordnance Service 

As the infantry divisions pushed north 
from Salerno to Cassino along the edge of 
the Neapolitan plain — the Campania felix 
of green winter wheat, Lombardy poplars, 



38 (1) Ibid., 2 Oct, 28 Nov 43. (2) Red Vault 
Fifth Army, G-4 History Opn AvALANCHE-Saler- 
no, p. 7. (3) ASF Information Letter NATOUSA 
#2, 14 Oct 43, Incl C, McGrath Report on Opera- 
tion Avalanche (hereafter cited as McGrath Rpt). 

30 ( 1 ) McGrath Rpt. (2) Interv, Mathews with 
Tate. (3) Ordnance Weekly Bulletin No. 2, 30 Oct 
43 



and orchards — and into rocky hills and 
somber mountains blanketed with rain 
clouds and reverberating with the roar of 
guns, the Ordnance units followed close 
behind. By the end of October Colonel 
Rose's 6694th Ordnance Group headquar- 
ters, which had landed with the D plus 12 
convoy, had 7 battalions with 29 com- 
panies, a total of nearly 6,000 men. Most 
of the men were veterans of Sicily or Tuni- 
sia. They came from Palermo or Bizerte 
on LST's and LCT's with their shop trucks, 
cargo trucks, vans, and jeeps, and found 
Italy a welcome change. The men of the 
525th Heavy Maintenance Tank Com- 
pany, the unit that had served with the 
British in the Libyan desert, had the first 
fresh fruit they had tasted since they left 
home in May of 1942. 40 

On arrival, the battalion commanding 
officers were given their task assignments. 
The 42d and 45th Ordnance Battalions 
were to provide third echelon maintenance 
and supply support to II Corps and VI 
Corps, respectively; the 62d Ammunition 
Battalion was to operate army forward 
ASP's and rear dumps; the 87th Battalion 
was to repair corps and army trucks, 
DUKW's and other motor vehicles; the 
1 88th was to furnish third echelon main- 
tenance to all tank and tank destroyer 
groups; the 197th was responsible for evac- 
uation and fourth echelon work; and the 
2630th, a new unit organized in North 
Africa, was to provide third echelon main- 
tenance and supply to all the antiaircraft 
units in Fifth Army. 41 

The third echelon companies were given 



40 ( 1 ) History 525th Ord Heavy Maint Co, Tk. 
1943. (2) Niblo Rpt, 14 Oct 43. 

41 ( 1 ) Army Ordnance Admin Instr 2. 14 Oct 
43. (2) Niblo Rpt, 14 Nov 43, Incl 5. (3) Jnl 
45th Ord Bn 18-19 Sep in History 45th Ord Bn 



SALERNO AND THE FIFTH ARMY ORDNANCE SERVICE 



183 



definite assignments to support a specified 
infantry division or artillery, tank, tank 
destroyer, antiaircraft or other unit. Colo- 
nel Niblo was convinced from a study 
of the Tunisia and Sicily Campaigns that 
it was inefficient to place Ordnance troops 
geographically in certain areas with the 
general task of supporting all combat units 
that might be passing through. Therefore 
he gave firm instructions that when the 
line units moved the Ordnance units moved 
too, as closely behind as logistics would 
permit, sending out contact parties daily 
to combat units. He ordered the group 
commander, the battalion commander, or 
the company commander to make periodic 
calls on the commanding officer of the 
combat unit being supported to keep him 
informed of the mission and location of 
his Ordnance troops and the condition of 
his Ordnance materiel, and to offer and 
request co-operation in solving communi- 
cations and other problems. Niblo did 
everything he could to instill in his men the 
conviction that every major combat unit 
was entitled to support at all times. His 
slogan throughout the Italian campaign was 
"Uninterrupted Ordnance Service." 42 

In placing Ordnance units close behind 
the combat troops, with definite assign- 
ments, Colonel Niblo had the enthusiastic 
suport of Colonel Tate, the Fifth Army 
G-4, who wanted to keep supply service 
troops under army control for greater flex- 
ibility and at the same time give no cause 
for complaints that support was too far to 
the rear, a complaint often heard about 
the Sicily Campaign. Another advantage 
in Tate's eyes was that the men in the di- 



42 ( 1 ) Army Ordnance Admin Instr 2, 14 Oct 
43; see also later administrative instructions. (2) 
Ltr, Rose to Campbell, 17 Oct 43, Campbell Over- 
seas File. 



vision or corps and the Ordnance men 
"would get to know each other and the 
ordnance outfit would take great pride in 
repairing and servicing the equipment of 
the outfit it worked with." 43 This feeling 
was fostered when Niblo sent the 42 d Bat- 
talion to the vicinity of Avellino to act as 
"host" or "welcoming committee" to the 
units of II Corps that were ferried from 
Sicily in October, and drove up the Italian 
coast. The 42 d selected bivouac areas, 
provided guides and signs, and, after organ- 
izing the staging area, repaired and con- 
ditioned all weapons and vehicles so that 
they were ready for action when the corps 
moved into the combat zone. 44 

The policy of moving Ordnance com- 
panies when their combat units moved had 
to be modified in late January 1944 when 
the War Department was reorganizing and 
regrouping certain combat units, such as 
nondivisional artillery, tank, and tank de- 
stroyer battalions, so that they would be 
more sensitive to the surge of battle. The 
constant regrouping and shifting made it 
too difficult for the Ordnance maintenance 
companies, limited in number, to keep up. 
Therefore, as a general policy, mainte- 
nance and supply responsibility was trans- 
ferred from one Ordnance company to an- 
other as required. The old company for- 
warded to the new company within twenty- 
four hours an envelope containing com- 
plete, up-to-date records of the status of 
Ordnance support to the combat unit in- 
volved, a process described by Niblo as the 
"simple transfer of the record of business 
with a customer from one branch office to 
another." The Envelope System, as it was 
called, made it possible for one company 



Interv, Mathews with Tate. 
Niblo Rpt, 14 Oct 43. 



184 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



to pick up quickly where another left off, 
and gave excellent results. 45 

Poop Sheets and Purple Blurbs 

In the interest of Uninterrupted 
Ordnance Service, Colonel Niblo believed 
in keeping his Ordnance units as well in- 
formed as possible. He expanded the usual 
Army Ordnance Administrative Instruc- 
tions, prescribed in the Ordnance field 
manual, to include revised task assignments 
and policies, useful technical information, 
and items of interest. He also took steps to 
keep his Ordnance commanders informed 
on the movement and equipment of the 
combat forces. He knew from his own ex- 
perience how vital such information was. 
For example, learning for the first time at 
a conference that a unit was coming in with 
different weapons than those he had 
planned for, he had to leave the confer- 
ence in order to stop some trucks that had 
already started and get them to return to 
base and pick up the proper ammunition 
and spares. 46 

Beginning early in November 1943 he is- 
sued Ordnance commanding officers down 
to battalion level a daily top secret Ord- 
nance Operations Bulletin giving the tac- 
tical situation, including the location of the 
combat units, and the Ordnance situa- 
tion. Copies went also to Ordnance of- 
ficers at AFHQ, SOS Peninsular Base Sec- 
tion (PBS), and corps and divisions, more 
than thirty copies in all. Because purple 
ink was the only kind available in Naples 
for multicopy, the bulletins got the name of 



purple blurbs. The cover sheet bore the 
insignia of Fifth Army Ordnance Service, 
which was a robot holding up a flaming 
bomb superimposed on the Fifth Army 
sleeve insignia. 47 

The number and frequency of the mime- 
ographed bulletins and instructions that 
poured out of the Fifth Army Ordnance 
office during the fall of 1943 earned for 
Colonel Rose the title of Poop Sheet Pap- 
py; and one battalion commander com- 
plained that "the makeup of my battalion 
keeps shifting with the ebb and flow of 
poop-sheets from Nib." 48 Nevertheless, the 
publications were undoubtedly helpful. 
General Coffey, Ordnance officer of SOS 
NATOUSA, considered the Fifth Army 
Ordnance Administrative Instructions "the 
finest thing in their line" he had ever seen, 
and the Operations Bulletins were consid- 
ered by Headquarters, Fifth Army, one of 
the outstanding contributions by Ordnance 
to the Italian campaign. 49 

Ammo Joe 

Ammunition was the subject of Army 
Ordnance Administrative Instruction 1. 
Colonel Niblo gave ammunition supply, al- 
ways of the first importance, particular at- 
tention because in several respects it was a 
pioneering operation. For the first time 
there existed an ammunition battalion able 
to operate tactical ammunition supply 
points. In North Africa such battalions 



45 (i)Army Ordnance Admin Instr 39, 31 Jan 
44. (2) Ltr, Crawford to CofOrd, 7 May 44, sub; 
Technical Information Letter # 21. MTO Ord 
Sec 400.113, KCRC. 

10 Niblo Interv. 



"Copies of these publications are in OHF. 

48 Ltrs, Lt Col John G. Detwiler to Col D. J. 
Crawford, 28 Sep, 16 Dec 43, MTO Ord Sec 
3 1 9. 1, KCRC. 

4 " ( 1 ) Ltr, Coffey to Niblo, copy in Army Ord- 
nance Admin Instr 15, 9 Nov 43. (2) Hq Fifth 
Army, Training Memo 12, 15 July 1944, Lessons 
Learned in the Battle from the Garigliano to 
North of Rome. 



SALERNO AND THE FIFTH ARMY ORDNANCE SERVICE 



185 



had been used only at large depots; in 
Sicily, the ammunition battalion sent for- 
ward at the end of the campaign did not 
have enough transportation to furnish ade- 
quate support. In Italy the 62d Ammuni- 
tion Battalion, commanded by an excep- 
tionally capable officer, Lt. Col. William 
H. Jaynes, and closely controlled by Colo- 
nel Niblo (since the 6694th Group had 
no ammunition officer), operated forward 
and rear ASP's stocking all Class V sup- 
plies, Engineer and Chemical Warfare as 
well as Ordnance. 

During the first few months of the Ital- 
ian campaign the ammunition battalion ef- 
fected several innovations. One, a new re- 
quirement of Fifth Army, was the submis- 
sion to higher headquarters at 1800 every 
day of a report giving the amount of am- 
munition (by types) expended in the pre- 
vious twenty-four hours, and the amount 
on hand at the end of the period. Another 
was the first effective segregation of artil- 
lery ammunition by lot number. A third 
was a guide service that prepared maps and 
made signs showing the way to the ASP's. 
For the signs, two men at battalion head- 
quarters, Sergeant Offenbacher and Pfc. 
Arko, made a sketch of "Ammo Joe," a 
striding soldier carrying aloft a huge shell. 
This figure, appearing on signs, ammuni- 
tion maps, and messenger vehicles, became 
the symbol, and Ammo Joe the nickname, 
of Fifth Army ammunition supply. 50 

The segregation of artillery ammunition 



50 ( 1 ) Niblo Rpts, 2 Oct 43, Incl 2; 31 Oct 43, 
Incls 9, 13. (2) Meade, Ammunition Supply in the 
Mediterranean Theater of Operations, pp. 266-68. 
(3) Crawford Interv. (4) Memo, Maj. J. H. 
Mathewson for Col D. J. Crawford, 26 Jan 44, sub: 
Ammunition Supply in Italy (hereafter cited as 
Mathewson Rpt), MTO Ord Sec 400.113, KCRC. 
Copies of the mimeographed maps are in History 
62d Ammunition Bn, Jan-Dec 43. 




Ammo Joe 



by lot number, successful for the first time 
in the war, promised to be a great step for- 
ward in ammunition supply. Experience 
in Tunisia and Sicily had convinced artil- 
lerymen that the best results in barrage fire 
could be obtained only by the use of one 
lot of ammunition, that is, ammunition 
manufactured by one manufacturer under 
the same conditions and thus uniform. 
Mixed lots produced shot dispersion that 
made it unsafe for infantrymen to ap- 
proach closer than fifty yards to their own 
artillery fire. 51 Early in the Italian cam- 
paign, the artillerymen asked Ordnance for 
a considerable amount of one lot of am- 
munition to fire close-support missions. 
The request was not unreasonable, for 
every lot of ammunition had a code num- 
ber, given to it at the time of manufacture, 



51 ( 1 ) Ltr, Maj Gen J. P. Lucas to Theater 
Commander, 26 Aug 43, sub: Sicilian Campaign, 
OHF. (2) AGF Board Rpt NATO, No. 119. (3) 
Memo, Somervell for CG NYPOE, 3 Nov 43, sub: 
Report on Trip to NATOUSA by Gen Goodman, 
and Incl, ASF Planning Div, Theater Br, 1 2 General. 



186 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



but it brought groans from the Ordnance 
ammunition men. They had tried sorting 
by lot number in North Africa but had had 
to give up; the effort not only took more 
labor than could be spared but gave dis- 
couraging results. For example, at Bou 
Chebka the 53d Ammunition Company 
had found 1 1 2 different lots in 1 50 bundles 
of 105-mm. ammunition. There were no 
more than three bundles of any one lot, and 
the average lot size was 1 V3 bundles. 

After the request in Italy, Ordnance re- 
sumed the attempt, and Niblo tried a new 
method of sorting. Instead of physical 
labor at one stage of the process, he used 
paper work. The ammunition handlers 
tore down a stack of ammunition and re- 
corded the lot numbers on paper. Then 
the depot office men tabulated the results 
of the sorting. If there were more than 17 
bundles for any lot, they were collected at 
one point, marked Specially Segregated 
Ammunition, and shipped under this desig- 
nation to forward ASP's. Lots of 5 to 17 
bundles were left separated and were not 
consolidated and moved until more am- 
munition of the lot showed up. 52 

Ammo Joe was congratulated by Brig. 
Gen. Thomas E. Lewis, Fifth Army Artil- 
lery officer. Colonel McGrath reported 
to Colonel Crawford, "Niblo is definitely 
the darling of the Artillery boys since he 
made effective the segregation of ammuni- 
tion by lot number. This is accomplished 
and it's working. Tom Lewis and Joe Bur- 
rill get lyric every time they speak of it. 
Seriously it is undoubtedly a tremendous 
help to the Artillery man and represents 
the solution of what seemed to be an in- 
soluble problem." In the United States, 



the War Department, beginning in late 
January 1944, stopped the shipment over- 
seas of lots in small quantities. 53 

Lot sorting, the submission of new re- 
ports, the layout and operation of for- 
ward ASP's in difficult terrain and rainy 
weather, all placed a heavy drain on am- 
munition manpower and equipment. More 
clerks, carpenters, sign painters, truck- 
drivers, and laborers, and more trucks, water 
trailers, stoves, and other necessities were 
required than were provided by TOE's, 
which had not, as late as March 1944, 
even begun to catch up with the lessons 
learned in the Mediterranean theater. All 
the companies had more than twice as 
many trucks and trailers as their T/E 
called for, having taken them from main- 
tenance stocks, and they needed still more, 
for most companies operated two or more 
ASP's. Ordnance often had to draw ad- 
ditional trucks from a pool set up by Fifth 
Army's Transportation Section, and it took 
careful planning and co-ordination with 
Transportation to make possible the daily 
shipment of enough ammunition to for- 
ward ASP's. 54 

The ammunition labor problem was 
solved by hiring Italian civilians. At the 
end of November, Fifth Army Ordnance 
was using a thousand-man Italian work 
battalion, broken down into five "Italian 
companies," with one each attached to the 



r ' 2 Meade, Ammunition Supply in the Mediterra- 
nean Theater of Operations, p. 266. 



53 ( 1 ) Fifth Army Arty Info Memo of 3 Nov 
43, quoted in O.O.B. 4, 13 Nov 43. (2) Ltr, Mc- 
Grath to Crawford, 2 1 Nov 43, MTO Ord Sec 3 1 9. 1 , 
KCRC. (3) Ltr, Secy War to Commander-in-Chief, 
SPA, CG's ETO, NATO .... 25 Jan 44, sub: 
Mixed Ammunition Lots, Fifth Army AG 471 Am- 
munition, KCRC. 

%1 ( 1 ) Mathewson Rpt, p. 6. (2) Meade, Am- 
munition Supply in the Mediterranean Theater of 
Operations, p. 262 (3) Bykofsky and Larson, The 
Transportation Corps: Operations Overseas, pp. 
221-22. 



SALERNO AND THE FIFTH ARMY ORDNANCE SERVICE 



187 



five companies of the 62c! Ordnance Am- 
munition Battalion. The Italians were 
paid 87 cents a day, with 30 cents deducted 
for their food, and received their clothing, 
mostly from captured Italian Army stores. 
Their discipline was semimilitary, for most 
of them were ex-soldiers, and on the whole 
they were good workers. The greatest ad- 
vantage was that they were attached to the 
ammunition companies and could be taken 
wherever the company moved, so that labor 
was a more or less constant factor instead 
of a variable one. 55 

Forward ASP's normally stocked two 
units of fire of artillery ammunition and 
one unit of fire for all other weapons. 
Reserve ASP's doubled that amount, but 
this target was raised or lowered whenever 
availability of transportation, capability of 
resupply, or previous battle experience dic- 
tated a change. Issues were made to the 
combat forces according to the system used 
in North Africa, that is, upon the presenta- 
tion of a transportation order signed by 
the division ammunition officer or special 
unit ammunition officer certifying that the 
ammunition was required to replace a like 
amount expended in combat and was not 
in excess of the unit's basic load. 56 

By 9 November 1943, two months after 
the landing at Salerno, theater stocks of 
Ordnance Class V supplies, built up on the 
basis of ten units of fire at the base sec- 
tion for all weapons, reached the astronom- 
ical figure of 320,500 long tons. Though 
shortages in certain types of artillery am- 
munition, especially for the 105-mm. how- 
itzer, were already causing some anxiety, 



there was hope at Fifth Army headquarters 
that better transportation, the ironing out 
of difficulties in setting up the Peninsular 
Base Section, and the substitution of actual 
theater experience on daily expenditures of 
artillery ammunition ( 1/3 of a unit of fire) 
for the War Department's estimate ( yi of 
a unit of fire) would soon solve the prob- 
lem of resupply. 57 

The Search for Better Organization 

The Allied advance was stopped tem- 
porarily in mid-November by mountain- 
ous terrain, the stubborn resistance of the 
enemy, and the rains, which, increasing 
since October, had swelled the Volturno 
River, deepened the mud, and made life 
miserable for the weary troops. General 
Alexander ordered Fifth Army to halt its 
attack for two weeks. Colonel Niblo took 
advantage of the lull to reorganize his Fifth 
Army Ordnance Service. He had never 
given up the idea of a forward group head- 
quarters to control all army third echelon 
maintenance and supply support of combat 
troops, and the arrival of the newly or- 
ganized 2630th Ordnance Battalion gave 
him a headquarters to use for this purpose. 
Obtaining approval from NATOUSA to 
reorganize the battalion under TOE 9-312 
as a group headquarters commanded by a 
full colonel, he placed under the 2630th 
the 42d, 45th, 1 88th, and 87th Battalions, 
and also the French third echelon bat- 
talion, the 651st Maintenance Battalion, 
which had been organized to operate Ord- 
nance support for French troops. To com- 



55 ( 1 ) Niblo Rpt, 1 3 Dec 43, Incl 1.(2) Meade. 
Ammunition Supply in the Mediterranean Theater 
of Operations, p. 268. 

56 (1) Niblo Rpt, 2 Oct 43, Incl 2. (2) Petersen, 
Rpt 14 Feb 45. 



" ( 1 ) History Ord Service MTO Nov 43-Nov 
45, vol. II, ch. VII, OHF. (2) Ltr, CG Fifth 
Army to CG Peninsular Base Sec, 24 Nov 43, 
sub: Ammunition Supply, Incl 5 to Niblo Rpt, 
28 Nov 43. 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



mand the forward group headquarters he 
selected Lt. Col. George L. Artamonoff, 
who had for most of the past year been 
working with the French Rearmament 
Commission in Algiers. 58 

Another and more sweeping reorganiza- 
tion took place a few weeks later. Colonel 
Niblo again brought Colonel Rose into his 
main command headquarters as executive 
and converted the 6694th Group, now 
commanded by Lt. Col. William H. Jaynes, 
into a field headquarters charged with 
all fourth echelon maintenance, supply, 
evacuation, distribution, and salvage within 
Fifth Army. The change brought the com- 
mand of all Ordnance groups and bat- 
talions directly into Niblo's hand; it was 
now plain that delegating authority to the 
commander of the 6694th Group had been 
a mistake. The introduction of the group 
headquarters between the Ordnance officer 
and the battalion commanders had resulted 
in the multiplication of paper work and in 
conflicting orders to battalions. It had also 
slowed the reaction time of Ordnance sup- 
ply service. Often weaknesses in the service 
had attained formidable proportions before 
Niblo was aware of them. 59 

Part of the trouble in the earlier orga- 
nization had been caused by dissension 
between Colonel Rose as commander of 
the 6694th Group, and Colonel Moffitt, 
Niblo's staff officer for maintenance and 
supply. One lesson learned in these early 
campaigns was that "the military art is a 



68 ( 1 ) Army Ordnance Admin Instr 21, 25 Nov 
43. (2) Ltr, Detwiler to Crawford, 26 Nov 43, 
MTO Ord Sec 3 1 9. 1, KCRC. (3) Artamonoff In- 
terv. (4) Crawford Interv. 

68 ( 1 ) Army Ordnance Admin Instr 28, 10 Dec 
43. (2) Ltr, Crawford to CofOrd, 29 Feb 44, sub: 
Technical Information Letter No. 19. (3) Ltr. 
McGrath to Crawford. 16 Dec 43, MTO Ord Sec 
319. 1, KCRC. 



most personal one." co Rose worked hard, 
but was considered un-co-operative by sev- 
eral of his closest colleagues; Moffitt was 
able, but was described by a fellow officer 
as having "a genius for irritating people." 
On one occasion the Fifth Army G-2 re- 
ported Rose and Moffitt for their language 
to each other over the telephone. In Jan- 
uary 1944 both men were forced to leave 
Fifth Army Ordnance office because of 
illness. Moffitt, suffering from jaundice 
and overwork, came down with pneumonia 
and was taken to the hospital in Naples, 
where he died in March. Rose contracted 
dysentery and was transferred to an easier 
job as Ordnance officer of Northern Base 
Section in Corsica, which had been cap- 
tured by the Allies in October and was 
being developed as an air base. 61 

Personalities aside, it was no easy matter 
to evolve an efficient Ordnance command 
organization in Italy at that stage of the 
war. The best Niblo could do during the 
first winter of the Italian campaign was to 
obtain from NATOUSA authority to acti- 
vate a new group to use as headquarters — 
the 2660th Ordnance Group (Provisional), 
organized on 7 January 1944 at Caserta, 
in the baroque royal palace (the Versailles 
of Naples) occupied by Fifth Army head- 
quarters. The group provided an adjutant 
and better organization, though it did not 
increase the size of Niblo's staff. The Ord- 
nance Section was simply transferred to the 
2660th on temporary duty, while remain- 
ing assigned to the Headquarters and 



00 Truscott, Command Missions, p. 546. 

01 ( 1 ) Artamonoff, Crawford, and McGrath In- 
tervs. (2) Ltr, McGrath to Crawford, 16 Dec 43, 
MTO Ord Sec 319.1, KCRC. (3) O.O.B. 118, 
Incl 1, Niblo Rpt, 3 Apr 44. Moffitt was promoted 
to full colonel the day before he died; Niblo was 
with General Clark when he pinned on Moffitt's 
eagles in the hospital. Ibid. 



SALERNO AND THE FIFTH ARMY ORDNANCE SERVICE 



189 



Headquarters Company, Fifth Army (T/O 
200-1). It was far from an ideal solu- 
tion. Niblo came to feel that an army 
Ordnance brigade was the answer, with 
the brigade commander to administer a 
small staff section at army headquarters as 
well as to command all Ordnance groups. 
But brigade organization, early advocated 
by Maj. Gen. James K. Crain, had been 
disapproved by the General Staff and was 
not achieved during World War II. 62 

With the few men allotted in T/O 200-1 , 
the 2660th Group operated through four 
office divisions: one for maintenance and 
general supply, one for ammunition and 
bomb disposal, 03 one for administration, 
and one for operations and inspection. 
It controlled three large field headquar- 
ters, furnishing ammunition, third echelon 
maintenance and supply, and fourth eche- 
lon support to Fifth Army. The whole or- 
ganization contained nearly seven thousand 
men, including some of the French units 
that had been coming into Italy from 
North Africa since mid-December. The 
field headquarters were also using thou- 
sands of Italian civilian laborers for main- 
tenance work as well as for Class II and 



62 ( 1 ) Niblo Rpt, 1 3 Jun 44, Incl 1 . ( 2 ) Hq Fifth 
Army GO 2, 7 Jan 44. (3) Brig Gen Urban Niblo. 
Lessons of World War II, OHF. (4) Crain "Ord- 
nance in the Field," Ordnance, XXXIX (Sep-Oct 
54), p. 329. 

63 The removal of unexploded bombs was the 
responsibility of the Base Section Ordnance of- 
ficer. At first the main job was removing bombs 
(German and Allied) from Naples and other 
ports; but later, as the skies were cleared of Ger- 
man aircraft, the bomb disposal men were used 
to destroy uncertain ammunition in captured 
enemy dumps. Bomb disposal squads ( 1 officer and 
6 enlisted men each) were attached to the Fifth 
Army Ordnance ammunition battalions for ad- 
ministration and supply. See History Ord Service 
MTO, vol. II, ch. VII, p. 323; and Niblo Rpt, 17 
Apr 44, Incl 2. 



IV and ammunition supply. 04 

Niblo announced in a bulletin that the 
January reorganization was to be the last 
one. This announcement was received with 
joy by officers in the field who had found 
it hard to adjust to the many changes that 
had taken place since October. One of 
them commented, "This is a historic mo- 
ment, and I think long overdue — so hope 
it sticks." or> It did stick, in essentials, 
though some changes were later made. The 
most important took place in May 1944, 
when the 2630th Ordnance Battalion (Pro- 
visional) became the 53d Ordnance Base 
Group, the 6694th Ordnance Group (Pro- 
visional) became the 55th Ordnance Base 
Group, and the 56th Ordnance Base 
Group was activated to control the army 
ammunition battalions, relieving the 62 d 
Ordnance Ammunition Battalion of the 
dual function of group and battalion. 60 

Later changes were made necessary by 
the departure of units to the European 
Theater of Operations, but the pattern of 
organization remained the same — that of 
having one field headquarters to operate 
third echelon service, another, fourth eche- 
lon supply and evacuation, and a third, am- 
munition. The 2660th Ordnance Group 
(Provisional) remained the command 
headquarters through the rest of the Italian 
campaign, twenty long months, including 
two winters. 07 



w (i)Niblo Rpt, 22 Jan 44, Incls 3 and 5. 
(2) Fifth Army Station List 13 Dec 43, 10, 17 
Jan 44. (3) Ltr, Crawford to CofOrd, 29 Feb 44. 
sub: Technical Letter No. 19. 

63 Ltr, Detwiler to Crawford, 25 Jan 44, no sub. 
MTO Ord Sec 3 1 9. 1, KCRC. 

00 (1) Niblo Rpt, 30 May 44. (2) From the 
two forward groups, the 53d and 56th, the word 
"Base" was later dropped because it was a mis- 
nomer, Niblo Rpt, 25 Jul 44. 

07 ( 1 ) Niblo Rpts, 12 Jul 44, Incl 3; 25 Jul 44. 
Incl 9. (2) Brig Gen Urban Niblo, Lessons of World 
War II. 



190 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



In November 1943 General Coffey crit- 
icized the Fifth Army Ordnance organiza- 
tion for having too much fourth echelon 
service. Army then had eleven heavy 
maintenance and four depot companies lo- 
cated not very far from Naples, where the 
Peninsular Base Section was being organ- 
ized; theoretically army would not need so 
much heavy maintenance, and the situa- 
tion created the danger of undue dispersion 
of spare parts, already a "serious head- 
ache." 68 Nevertheless, Niblo, bolstered 
by the recommendations of Fifth Army 
ground force Ordnance officers that he 
retain full control of such service, went 
ahead with plans to establish a large base 
shop and depot in the army area. By late 
January Colonel Jaynes's 6694th base 
group had three strong battalions : a sup- 
ply battalion, the 5th; a battalion for evac- 
uation and salvage, the 87th; and a heavy 
maintenance battalion, the 197th. 69 

It was fortunate that Niblo established 
his big army rear area, for Peninsular Base 
Section was not able to furnish adequate 
support for several months. Locating and 
establishing working space in crowded and 
rubble-strewn Naples took time. Base sec- 
tion Ordnance units and equipment were 
slow in arriving. In January the Penin- 
sular Base Section in Naples had only three 
heavy maintenance companies, and one of 
them was on loan from Fifth Army. The 
most urgent job of PBS Ordnance units in 
the early months was not fourth echelon 



work but vehicle assembly and third eche- 
lon repair of the thousands of trucks used 
in rehabilitating the port and the city. Ef- 
fective Ordnance fourth echelon mainte- 
nance support of the army was not avail- 
able in the PBS until the middle of Febru- 
ary 1944; there was no fifth echelon sup- 
port until the following July. 70 

Near Capua, an old fortress town on 
Highway 7 on the Volturno River, Colo- 
nel Jaynes operated a large field arsenal 
housed in Italian Army buildings and 
manned by men who were veterans by now 
of several campaigns, men who, according 
to General Clark, "had discovered the hard 
way that necessity is the mother of inven- 
tion." Jaynes's mechanics, helped by hun- 
dreds of Italian civilians and by the con- 
centration of machine tool equipment, re- 
built weapons and vehicles and manufac- 
tured parts and special equipment on a 
mass-production basis. One example of a 
big industrial operation was the brake re- 
pair work done in the shop on trucks and 
jeeps whose brakes had been damaged by 
the mud that piled up on highways after the 
torrential rains of late 1943. In early 1944, 
the Capua Arsenal handled many more 
crises on the Cassino front in the grueling 
months of mountain fighting, which Gen- 
eral Clark called "the most difficult months 
of the entire campaign." 71 Beginning in 
late January the arsenal also had to help 
solve some of the unprecedented problems 
of the Anzio beachhead. 



88 Ltr, Brig Gen John W. Coffey to Col Niblo, 
quoted in Niblo Rpt, 9 Nov 43. For support of 
this position in the United States, see Report of 
G-4 Conference on Organization for Maintenance, 
Maintenance Doctrine and Policies Governing the 
Distribution of Spare Parts, held 26 February 1944, 
ASF Maint Div 451.9. 

89 ( 1 ) Niblo Rpts, 9 Nov 43; 20 Nov 43. (2) 
Organization Chart, 20 Jan 44. 



70 ( 1 ) History Peninsular Base Section, North 
African Theater of Operations United States Army, 
vol. II, 28 Aug 43-31 Jan 44, ch. 18, KCRC. (2) 
Petersen Rpt, 14 Feb 45. (3) McGrath Interv. (4) 
History MTO Ord Service, ch. IV, pt. 3, p. 96, 
OHF. 

71 (1) Clark, Calculated Risk, pp. 342, 334. (2) 
Petersen Rpt, 14 Feb 45. (3) Crawford Interv. 



CHAPTER XI 



Anzio and Artillery 



An American Ordnance unit that could 
boast a battle history dating back to To- 
bruk blamed its presence at Anzio on its 
proclivity for always being in the worst 
place at the worst time. At Anzio and 
Nettuno, two neighboring resort towns on 
the coast south of Rome, the Allies were 
pinned down by the Germans for four 
months on a small beachhead about seven 
miles deep and fifteen miles wide. Every 
inch of it was under German artillery fire. 
Nobody was safe. Depot men, repairmen, 
truck drivers, clerks, all were as likely to 
be hit as a man in the front lines. The 
very sidewalks of Anzio had shell holes in 
them. Military police were occasionally 
killed while directing traffic. In the first 
two months Ordnance lost 14 men killed 
and 78 wounded. The total battle casual- 
ties for the whole period at Anzio, 22 Jan- 
uary-24 May 1944, were about 5,000 
killed in action and nearly 1 6,000 wounded. 1 

Prime Minister Churchill, who by mid- 
December 1943 had become convinced 
that only an amphibious end run around 
the German Winter and Gustav Lines 
could break the "scandalous" impasse on 
the Italian front, needed all of his famous 



1 ( 1 ) Martinez, "Saga of the 'Great 525th,' " p. 
328. (2) Pyle, Brave Men, pp. 159, 161. (3) 
History Ord Service MTO, ch. IV, pt. 2, p. 82, 
OHF. (4) Truscott, Command Missions, p. 550. 
(5) DA Rpt, Army Battle Casualties and Non-battle 
Deaths in World War II ... 7 Dec 41-31 Dec 46, 
p. 92, OCMH. 



powers of persuasion to get the Combined 
Chiefs of Staff to agree to an amphibious 
landing in the Anzio-Nettuno area about a 
hundred miles north of Naples. 2 The Al- 
lied generals might have been more en- 
thusiastic about the operation, known as 
Shingle, had they been permitted a real- 
ly strong force of at least three divisions, 
but the scarcity of landing craft limited 
Shingle to two: the British 1st Division 
and the U.S. 3d Division, both under VI 
Corps. 3 

The landing early on the morning of 22 
January 1944 went off well. The weather 
was good, and the only enemy forces en- 
countered were a few outposts, some drunk- 
en Germans riding in a staff car, and a 
battalion or so of panzer grenadiers sent 
to Anzio for a rest, many of whom were 
captured in their beds. Anzio and Net- 
tuno, with their pink and white villas and 
seaside hotels rising from a beach about 
three miles long, were like ghost towns be- 
cause after the invasion at Salerno the Ger- 



2 Churchill, Closing the Ring, pp. 427-29. 

3 Intervs, Sidney T. Mathews and others with 
Field Marshal Alexander, Gen George C. Marshall, 
Gen Mark W. Clark, Maj Gen John P. Lucas, and 
Brig Gen K. W. D. Strong, all in Misc 314.82 
Interviews — Mediterranean by Mathews, Smyth 
and Watson, OCMH. Field Marshal Albert Kes- 
selring, German commander in Italy, told a news- 
paper correspondent in January 1946 that the 
Allies' "basic error" at Anzio was using "a half- 
way measure as an offensive." Truscott, Com- 
mand Missions, p. 550. 



192 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



mans had evacuated the civilians from the 
strip of land, about twelve miles in depth, 
behind the coast. Beyond Nettuno in the 
American sector were farmlands reclaimed 
from the Pontine Marshes in Mussolini's 
heyday, a resettlement project on which 
canals had been dug and modern farm- 
houses, community centers, and straight, 
tree-lined roads had been built. 4 

Here the advance was halted at the end 
of January. With astonishing speed the 
Germans brought in divisions from north- 
ern Italy, France, and elsewhere, while still 
holding at Cassino. Thus the Anzio opera- 
tion did not accomplish its main objective, 
which was to draw off enough German 
divisions from the Cassino front to allow 
the Allies to make a quick breakthrough 
there. Bitterly frustrating months were in 
store for the Anzio force until the build-up 
for the May 1944 drive on Rome was com- 
pleted. Though the force was not strong 
enough to break out of the beachhead, it 
did hold under fierce counterattacks, and 
throughout the spring managed to contain 
more than a dozen German divisions that 
might otherwise have been used against 
the Normandy landing or on other Allied 
fronts. This, and the heavy German losses 
in men and supplies, seemed to Allied com- 
manders to be worth the high cost of 
Anzio. 5 

Supporting an embattled beachhead for 



months on end called for careful planning. 
One innovation that saved much time on 
resupply was introduced into the Mediter- 
ranean theater by Col. Ralph H. Tate, 
Fifth Army G-4. Trucks (2 /2-ton) were 
packed with five tons each of either am- 
munition, POL (petrol, oil, and lubri- 
cants), or rations — one type to a truck — 
at Naples, then backed into LST's. When 
they arrived at Anzio they ran straight 
from the LST's to the dumps, discharged 
their cargoes, and returned to an empty 
LST to be sent back to Naples, refilled 
with supplies, -and dispatched on the next 
turnaround. A truck-loaded LST could 
be emptied in about an hour, instead of 
the twelve hours usually required for a 
bulk-loaded LST; consequently it was in 
that much less danger of being shelled and 
bombed; also, the speed of the operation 
made for great flexibility, since VI Corps 
could ask for specific supplies one morning 
and receive them the next. Artillery, heavy 
engineer equipment, and build-up supplies 
came in on Liberty ships and were un- 
loaded by DUKW's and LCT's. Intel- 
ligent planning made it possible to land 
from Libertys and LST's an average of 
almost 4,000 tons of supplies a day between 
January and May. 6 

By the end of January, when the 45th 
Infantry Division and the 1st Armored 
Division (less Combat Command B) had 



4 ( 1 ) Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 309- 
10. (2) Morison, Sicily-Salerno- Anzio, p. 341. (3) 
David Interv. 

B (l) Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, p. 213. 

(2) Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 550-51. 

(3) For the Anzio operation as a whole see 
Blumenson, Salerno to Cassino, MS, OCMH. (4) 
Rpt, Gen H. Maitland Wilson, 16 Apr 45, sub: 
Allied Commander's Dispatch — Italian Campaign 
8 Jan-10 May 44, 95-ALI-0.5 (hereafter cited as 
Wilson Rpt, 16 Apr 45). 



( 1 ) Intervs with Brig Gen Ralph H. Tate and 
Col Edward J. O'Neill, G-4 VI Corps, by Sidney 
T. Mathews, OCMH. (2) Red Vault Fifth Army 
Hist Rpt G-4 Sec, Dec 43-May 44 (Phase IV). 
(3) Wilson Rpt, 16 Apr 45. (4) The practice of 
loading trucks in advance in order to speed the 
unloading of LST's was used in the South and 
Southwest Pacific beginning in June 1943- John 
Miller, jr., CARTWHEEL: The Reduction of 
Rabaul, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD 
WAR II (Washington, 1959), P- '78. 



ANZIO AND ARTILLERY 



193 




The Anzio-Nettuno Area 



been brought from Naples, the Allies had 
at Anzio a force of 68,886 men, 508 guns, 
and 237 tanks. 7 Fascinated by "the steady 
thundering flow of heavy war traffic," 
Ernie Pyle stood by a road near Anzio one 
day and noted, "of the first twelve vehicles 
that passed each was something different. 
There was a tank, and a great machine 
shop on heavy tractor treads that shook the 
earth as it passed, and a jeep of a one-star 
general, and a 'duck,' and a famous Amer- 
ican six-by-six, and a prime mover trun- 
dling the great Long Tom gun with its slim, 



graceful barrel pointing rearward. Then 
came a command car, and a stubby new 
gun covered with canvas — on four rubber- 
tired wheels — and an ambulance, and a 
crew of wire stringers, and a weapons car- 
rier. Then a big self-propelled gun on 
tractor treads, and finally another duck to 
start the heterogeneous cycle over again." s 
Anzio was a good test of the flexibility 
of the Fifth Army Ordnance organization. 
On 27 December 1943 Colonel Niblo in- 
formed the officers of the 45th Ordnance 
Battalion — the forward battalion support- 



7 Wilson Rpt, 16 Apr 45. 



8 Pyle, Brave Men, p. 187. 



194 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



ing VI Corps — that they were going to 
handle Ordnance service at Anzio. Only 
the headquarters was nominated to go. 
The companies then under the battalion 
were relieved, and Maj. Marshall S. David, 
commanding officer of the battalion, was 
allowed to select the companies he wanted. 
He selected from the 4.26. Battalion the 14th 
Medium Maintenance Company, which 
was already supporting the 3d Division; 
from the 87th Battalion, the 45th Medium 
Maintenance Company, a good all-around 
company; from the 188th Battalion, the 
3407th Medium Maintenance Company 
(Q), experienced in the maintenance of 
DUKW's; from the 197th Ordnance Bat- 
talion, a detachment of the 525th Heavy 
Maintenance Company (Tank) ; and from 
the 62d Ammunition Battalion, the 66th 
and 58th Ammunition Companies. In the 
assault wave, only the ammunition com- 
panies went in entire; the maintenance 
companies were represented by small ad- 
vance detachments totaling a hundred men, 
nearly half of them for DUKW mainte- 
nance. The rear detachments were sched- 
uled to proceed overland and join their 
units as the attack progressed toward 
Rome. 9 

When it became obvious that the opera- 
tion was not going according to plan, the 
rear detachments were hastily loaded on 
LST's and brought to the beachhead, ar- 
riving in the middle of a storm four days 
after D-day. The combat troop build-up a 
few days later of another infantry division, 



°(i) Memo, Detwiler, CO 45th Ord Bn, for 
Ordnance Officer Fifth Army, 7 Apr 44, sub: 
Ordnance Operations in the Anzio Beachhead 
(hereafter cited as Detwiler Rpt), in Personal Papers 
of Marshall S. David (hereafter cited as David 
File). (2) David Interv. (3) Niblo Rpt, 22 Jan 44, 
Incls 1 and 5. 



half an armored division, and additional 
field artillery, tank destroyer, and anti- 
aircraft battalions made it necessary for 
Niblo to add to his Ordnance strength 
another medium maintenance company 
skilled in artillery maintenance, the 101st, 
an antiaircraft maintenance company, the 
262d, and a depot company, the 77th. 
He also sent in a detachment of the 476th 
Tank Evacuation Company and a pla- 
toon of the 2622d Tank Transporter Com- 
pany to provide wrecker service for tanks 
mired in muddy fields or immobilized by 
mines. Anzio by then had 1,886 Ord- 
nance men, of whom 73 were officers. 10 

Major David, who landed on the eve- 
ning of D-day, gave Maj. Madison Post, 
his maintenance officer, the job of super- 
vising dewaterproofing, and set up the 
45th Ordnance Battalion headquarters 
and the Ordnance depot in a group of 
buildings arranged in a quadrangle around 
a courtyard, a compound formerly used 
by an Italian Army elite corps. Parts 
were stored in the horse stalls of the 
stables. Profiting by his experience at 
Salerno, when he had to break crates open 
in order to find out what was in them, 
David had ordered an inventory in a 
waterproof envelope to be tacked onto 
each box of supplies; he carried with him 
a master packing list showing the part 
number, correct nomenclature, quantity, 
and box number of each item shipped. 
This master list was extremely useful in 
operating the depot. 

Across the field from the compound, the 
45th Medium Maintenance Company 
was bivouacked around a villa with palm 
trees. The men of the 525th Tank Mainte- 

10 Niblo Rpts, 5 Feb, Incl 1 ; 21 Feb, Incl 3; and 

4 Mar 43, Incl 2. 



ANZIO AND ARTILLERY 



195 



nance Company found some buildings at 
Nettuno with concrete floors that made 
them ideal for shops; and the 3407th 
Medium Maintenance Company (Q) set 
up its DUKW shop area on hard ground 
north of Nettuno. The 14th Mainte- 
nance Company, supporting the 3d Divi- 
sion, was closer to the front than any other 
company, but nowhere was the front far 
away. From the roof of the compound 
Major David could see the front lines and 
the hills from which the German artillery 
was methodically shelling the beachhead. 11 
The heaviest maintenance job for the 
first two weeks was DUKW repair. Three 
hundred American DUKW's were used to 
land supplies from the Liberty ships an- 
chored far offshore. So many were put 
out of commission by slippery and con- 
gested roads, night driving and unload- 
ing, rough weather, enemy action, and 
carelessness on the part of drivers, that the 
one DUKW repair company was swamped 
and had to have help from other Ord- 
nance maintenance companies. Fortu- 
nately on this strange topsy-turvy front, 
where no rules seemed to apply, truck 
maintenance was not a serious problem. 
Distances were short, the traffic within 
the beachhead was severely restricted, and 
the turnaround trucks that came in on the 
LST's were serviced in Naples. Fortu- 
nately also, Ordnance supplies were 
plentiful compared with those on other 
battlefronts. Fifth Army, expecting VI 
Corps to break out of Anzio in a few 
weeks, had set the supply level at fourteen 
days. Major David (with Niblo's tacit 
consent) had gone far beyond this level, 
requisitioning at the beginning for thirty 



days from Naples, sixty days from North 
Africa, and ninety days from the United 
States. The supply position was strength- 
ened further in early February when Fifth 
Army took over resupply, until then han- 
dled by VI Corps. 12 

Supplies were adequate and supply dis- 
tances were short, but the success of the 
support operation depended largely on 
careful planning by Ordnance officers and 
the initiative and adaptability of Ord- 
nance troops. Entrenching their vehicles 
and equipment, the troops worked under 
front-line conditions at any jobs that came 
their way: repairing DUKW's, fighting 
fires at ammunition dumps, doing guard 
duty at Fifth Army headquarters, practic- 
ing to convert themselves into combat 
troops in case of an enemy breakthrough. 
For its important contribution to the land- 
ing and early operations at Anzio, Fifth 
Army Ordnance Service received the 
thanks of the VI Corps Ordnance officer 
and the congratulations of General 
Clark. 13 

The Ordnance men slept, whenever 
they were able to sleep in the noise and 
frequent alerts, wherever they could. At 
first they tried abandoned houses and 
apartments, which offered protection from 
the cold, damp, sometimes snowy weather, 



11 (1) David Interv. (2) Detwiler Rpt. (3) Ltr, 
Crawford to OCO, 7 May 44, sub: Technical In- 
formation Letter #21, KCRC. 



12 (1) Detwiler Rpt. (2) Rpt of Survey of Auto- 
motive Spare Parts Situation in NATOUSA and 
ETOUSA Jan 44-Mar 44, ASF Planning Div, 
Theater Br. (3) David Interv. After the beachhead 
became stabilized, Colonel Tate raised the supply 
level to 30 days, and increased it to 40 days just 
before the drive on Rome. Interv, Mathews with 
Tate. (4) Comments enclosed in Ltr, Lt Col Mar- 
shall S. David (USAR, Ret), to Brig Gen Hal C. 
Pattison, 11 Oct 63 (hereafter cited as David Com- 
ments). A huge salvage dump was also established 
at Anzio. Ibid. 

"Ltr, Lt Col Walter G. Jennings to Ord OfT, 
Fifth Army, 11 Feb 44, sub: Appreciation, and 
1st Ind, David File. 



196 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



but soon found they had to go under- 
ground in foxholes, slit trenches, and wine 
cellars. The billets of the 77th Depot 
Company, for example, ranged all over 
Anzio — "From deep caves 40 feet under- 
ground at the water's edge, through old 
wine cellars two levels below the street, 
through rooms in an old medieval fort, 
through a magazine in an open field filled 
with Italian high explosives, to the billet 
of a couple of second looeys on the top 
floor of the tallest building on the highest 
hill in the town of Anzio." 14 

Paradoxically in this strange place, the 
safest company was the one nearest the 
front lines because most of the German fire 
passed over it, to fall on the harbor and 
port; also, the company at the front had 
room to disperse. In the crowded area 
around Anzio-Nettuno were the heaviest 
Ordnance casualties and the worst cases 
of "Anzio Anxiety" or "Nettuno Neu- 
rosis," caused by the strain of constant 
shelling and bombing, added to overwork. 
One night 50-kilo bombs fell near the spot 
where two officers of the 45th Medium 
Maintenance Company were sleeping on 
cots. One was wounded; the other suf- 
fered such a case of shock that he had to 
be evacuated from the beachhead. At 
the end of February Major David was 
relieved and sent down to the Fifth Army 
Rest Center at Sorrento. He found it 
difficult to forget "the nightmare of the 
past month." 15 



14 ( 1 ) Quote from Lt. John Delehanty, "Company 
A, Anzio," April-May 1945 issue of Firepower, 
quoted by permission of the Editors, American Ord- 
nance Association, Washington, D.C. (2) Lt. Nor- 
man L. Holland, "A Day on Anzio," Firepower 
(October 1944). (3) Lt. Clyde L. Lerner, "Biv- 
ouacs," Firepower (April-May 1945), p. 1 1 . 

,r '(i) Detwiler Rpt. (2) Ltr, Maj Marshall S. 
David to Mrs. Marshall S. David, 1 Mar 44, David 
File. 



On i March Niblo sent Lt. Col. John 
G. Detwiler from the Cassino front to 
Anzio to succeed Major David as com- 
mander of the 45th Battalion. In March 
a small detachment from the 2660th Ord- 
nance Base Group (Provisional) head- 
quarters also arrived to serve as an Ord- 
nance advance command post. Early in 
May Colonel Detwiler was given com- 
mand of all Ordnance troops at the beach- 
head, including an ammunition battalion 
that had been sent forward from Naples. 10 

The Ammunition Dumps 

One of Major David's greatest worries 
had been his ammunition dumps. Until 2 
February he had no battalion ammuni- 
tion officer and never had enough men to 
handle the vast quantities of ammunition 
that poured into the beachhead from D- 
day on. Of all the cargo aboard the 
truck-loaded LST's 60 percent was am- 
munition, and more (about one-fourth of 
the total amount received) came in on 
Liberty ships, LCT's, and LCI's (landing 
craft, infantry ) . The field storage of am- 
munition was perhaps the most critical 
problem for Ordnance at Anzio. 17 

By mid-March 1944 about 40,000 tons 
were on the ground in a small area, ex- 
posed to enemy bombing and shellfire. 
On D-day the 66th Ammunition Com- 



19 ( 1 ) Ltr, Col D. J. Crawford to OCO, 7 May 
44, sub: Technical Information Ltr #21. (2) 
Niblo Rpt, 19 Mar 44, Incl 1. (3) O.O.B. 187, 
27 May 44. 

17 ( 1 ) History Ord Service MTO, ch. IV, pt. 2, 
pp. 85, 88. (2) At first the commanding officer of 
the 58th Medium Maintenance Company acted as 
battalion ammunition officer. He was succeeded by 
the maintenance officer of the 45th Battalion, who 
had had ammunition experience in North Africa. 
David Comments. 



ANZIO AND ARTILLERY 



197 



pany opened a large ammunition supply 
point, capacity about 20,000 tons, a mile 
north of Nettuno, and during February 
that company and the 58th Ammunition 
Company, broken down into detach- 
ments, opened and operated four more, 
each with a capacity of from 1,600 to 
6,000 tons. Working under combat con- 
ditions, the men manhandled enormous 
quantities of the heavy and dangerous 
material. Between 22 January and 31 
March nearly 86,000 long tons were 
brought to the ASP's. 18 

It was a bigger job than two companies 
could manage. The ammunition men 
were mostly clerks accustomed to depend- 
ing for labor on their attached Italian 
labor companies. David had been refused 
permission to bring in Italians during the 
assault phase; 19 and only about fifty civil- 
ians were available at Anzio. Some help 
came from the Cassino front on 2 Feb- 
ruary, when Niblo sent to Anzio 300 men 
from the Italian labor companies and 
Capt. James F. Fisher and three enlisted 
men from the 62 d Ammunition Battalion, 
but this was still not enough. Following 
a complaint to army by Maj. Gen. Lucian 
K. Truscott, Jr., who took over command 
of VI Corps on 23 February, of "deplora- 
ble conditions" in the ammunition dumps, 
Niblo sent to Anzio the 684th Ammuni- 
tion Company, accompanied by its at- 
tached labor company of 140 Italians. 20 



18 History Ord Service MTO, ch. IV, pt. 2, pp. 
82, 85-88 and apps. C, D. 

19 David Interv. One heavy maintenance company 
commander was so determined to take his Italian 
laborers with him that he smuggled them aboard his 
LST disguised as GI's. Lt. O. B. Rosstead, "Italian 
Labor," Firepower (December 1944), p. 14 

20 ( 1 ) Rpt, Capt James F. Fisher, Ammunition 
Supply at the Anzio Beachhead (hereafter cited 
as Fisher Rpt), 1 Apr 44, Annex 3 to O.O.B. 140. 



The arrival of the 684th meant that 
three-fifths of the ammunition troop 
strength of Fifth Army was now at the 
beachhead, since only two out of five com- 
panies remained with the 62d Ammuni- 
tion Battalion on the Cassino front. It 
soon became evident that an ammunition 
battalion headquarters would have to be 
brought forward. None was available. 
Niblo solved the problem by converting to 
ammunition work his 87th Battalion head- 
quarters, then administering evacuation 
and fourth echelon automotive repair at 
Capua. Transferring its companies to the 
197th Ordnance Battalion, he dispatched 
the 87th headquarters to Anzio on 10 
March and attached to it the three ammu- 
nition companies at the beachhead. He 
named Captain Fisher (soon promoted to 
major) the commanding officer and gave 
him Capt. Paul S. Blandford, Jr., of the 
62 d Ammunition Battalion as his executive 
and "Fire Chief." 21 

A fire occurred in one or the other of the 
dumps nearly every night, beginning on 7 
February, when the first ASP was hit, until 
late May. The men fought the first fires 
with hand shovels and dirt, the only equip- 
ment they had. Later they got some 40- 
gallon foamite fire extinguishers and 
mounted them on half-tracks so they could 
get closer to the blaze. But it was the 
tankdozer that saved the day. 22 



(2) Truscott, Command Missions, p. 339. (3) 
Fifth Army Main Headquarters to CG Fifth Army 
Rear (2660th Ordnance Group), 28 Feb 44, Incl 
2 to History 62d Ord Ammunition Bn for Feb 44. 

21 (1) Niblo Rpt, 19 Mar 44. (2) O.O.B. 11, 
12 Mar 44. (3) Crawford, Technical Information 
Letter #21. (4) History Hq and Hq Det 87th 
Ord Bn 1944. 

22 ( 1 ) History Ord Service MTO, ch. IV, pt. 
2, pp. 90-94. (2) History Hq and Hq Det 87th 
Ord Bn, Apr and May 44. (3) O'Neill Interv. 



198 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Fighting fires with tanks, which pro- 
tected the men, had first been tried in 
Tunisia. At Anzio Maj. John Merrill, VI 
Corps ammunition officer, suggested put- 
ting a bulldozer blade on the front of a 
tank to scoop up the dirt. 23 Early in April 
Niblo turned the problem over to his 197th 
Ordnance Battalion at Capua. Its heavy 
tank maintenance companies got bulldozer 
blades from the Engineers and welded them 
to M4 tanks and T2 tank recovery units 
(M3 tanks equipped with cranes). Four 
of these units were shipped to Anzio and 
distributed among the ammunition dumps 
hardest hit by fires. They were an im- 
mediate success, smothering fires with dirt 
and extinguishing those that could not have 
been controlled any other way. In May 
Niblo was able to obtain from the Engi- 
neers kits for installing bulldozer blades on 
M4 tanks. The kits had been designed in 
the United States for modifying tanks so 
that they could excavate mines, and had 
just arrived in the theater. 24 

The tankdozer led to the development of 
the L-shaped storage bunker. In Anzio's 
dangerous and limited area, where proper 
dispersion was not possible, the first require- 
ment was to keep fires from spreading from 
one stack to another. At first straight 
trenches were dug, but they were often 
flooded, since the water table at Anzio was 
very near the surface. Also, there was not 
enough space between the trenches to fight 
fires effectively. Captain Blandford de- 
veloped a system of storing all ammunition 



above ground in a series of L-shaped dirt 
bunkers, each containing about 30 tons, 
with the corner of the L toward the enemy 
artillery positions for better protection 
against shellfire. Along the sides were 
piled large quantities of loose soil that could 
be pushed by a tankdozer over a burning 
stack. 25 

After the tankdozers went into action in 
April, manned by courageous volunteers 
from the Ordnance ammunition companies, 
losses fell from an average of 40 tons per 
fire to 10 tons. For the whole Anzio period 
only 3,807.9 tons were lost by fire. Casual- 
ties from this source were remarkably light. 
On 17 March 1944 Pfc. Gordon J. Eigen- 
berger, a first-aid man of the 87th Bat- 
talion's medical unit, was killed by explod- 
ing 155-mm. shells when enemy bombs 
started a fire in the ASP north of Anzio, but 
no other deaths were caused by fires in the 
dumps. Thirty ammunition men were 
wounded by shells or personnel bombs — 
thin-case bombs full of small shot that 
scattered widely when the bomb burst. 
Three men of the 66th Ammunition Com- 
pany were killed on 12 February by per- 
sonnel bombs dropped on their bivouac 
area. 26 

In spite of dangerous working conditions 
and storage problems in the dumps, about 
52,000 long tons of ammunition had been 
issued by the end of March. Most of it 
was artillery ammunition. During the 
major German offensive, from 16 to 20 
February, prisoners taken by the Allied 



23 ( 1 ) See above, p. 159. (2) O'Neill Interv. 

24 ( 1 ) Niblo Rpt, 26 Jun 44, Incl 5, Fire Fight- 
ing Equipment for Ammunition Supply Points. (2) 
Ltr, Maj Arra S. Avakian, Ord Sec Hq NATO- 
USA, to OCO, 29 May 44, sub: Mine Exploder, 
T1E3; First Interim Report on Field Test of Two 
in NATOUSA, O.O. 476/1083. 



85 ( 1 ) History Ord Service MTO, ch. IV, pt. 2, pp. 
89, 91, 94- (2) Mathewson Rpt. (3) Lt. Col. John 
G. Detwiler, "Ordnance at Anzio," Army Ordnance, 
XXVIII, 148 (January-February 1945), p. 101. 
(4) "Ordnance Roll of Honor," Army Ordnance, 
XXIX (September-October 1945), p. 253. 

M ( 1 ) History Hq and Hq Det 87th Ord Bn. 
1944. (2) David Interv. (3) Fisher Rpt. 



ANZIO AND ARTILLERY 



199 




Tankdozer Used To Fight Ammunition Dump Fires, Anzio 



forces said that the "terrific" and "con- 
tinuous" artillery fire of the Americans 
caused heavy casualties, cut off food supplies 
and communications, and brought some 
units to the verge of panic. At the peak of 
the attack, for every shell the enemy artil- 
lery fired, VI Corps threw back from ten to 
twenty. The artillerymen of one of the 
Long Tom batteries, veterans of Tunisia, 
Sicily, and the Salerno-Cassino operation, 
told Ernie Pyle that they had fired more 
rounds "sitting there in one spot on the 
Anzio beachhead" than they had in the 
entire year preceding, and that another bat- 
tery had fired more in four hours one night 
than in the previous eight months. A 
tremendous supply of ammunition was 
needed to offset the advantage the Ger- 



mans had in possessing guns of longer range 
and larger caliber. 27 

Anzio Annie and the Clamor 
for Heavier Artillery 

At the end of the first week of February 
1944 the men at the beachhead heard the 
"thundering scream," as they described it, 
of enormous German shells, the largest the 



27 ( 1 ) History Ord Service MTO, ch. IV, pt. 2, 
p. 85. (2) Pyle, Brave Men, p. 175. (3) For of- 
ficial German reports, beginning 3 February, on 
the Allies' "accurate and strong artillery, which is 
abundantly supplied with ammunition," see Ger- 
man Military Document Section, Military Intel- 
ligence Div, War Dept, The German Operation 
at Anzio (hereafter cited as German Mil Doc Sec 
Rpt on Anzio), pp. 28ff., OCMH. 



200 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Americans had yet encountered on any 
front. They saw geysers two hundred feet 
high when the big shells fell into the sea; 
they saw thick-walled three-story buildings 
demolished, an ancient Roman cave split 
open, a whole cemetery plowed up, "un- 
burying the dead." Ordnance experts 
studying the fragments determined that the 
shells were 280 millimeters or 1 1 inches in 
diameter and fired from a railroad gun 
with a range of about 63,000 yards or 36 
miles. 28 

By 2 February the Germans had brought 
down from the north several railroad guns 
to counter the naval gunfire that Salerno 
had led them to expect. The largest was 
the 280-mm. rifle, nicknamed Anzio Annie 
or the Anzio Express by the Allied troops. 
With a barrel 65 feet long, Anzio Annie 
was drawn by a diesel-electric locomotive 
and accompanied by four cars, one of which 
bore a turntable on which the gun was 
mounted to obtain traverse when firing. 
Another was an air-conditioned car for car- 
rying powder. On 7 February the Ger- 
mans used 280-mm. guns to shell Allied 
ships off Anzio and Nettuno. After that 
date the weather began to clear and the 
monsters were so vulnerable to air attack 
that they could probably be used only 
sporadically if at all. They may have been 
sent back up the coast as protection against 
the threat of an Allied amphibious assault 
at Civitavecchia, which the Germans con- 
tinued to expect. Two 280-mm. guns were 
discovered on a railroad siding at Civita- 
vecchia after the fall of Rome. Their 
names were Leopold and Robert. Leopold 
was shipped to Aberdeen Proving Ground, 
where careful study of several unorthodox 



design features led to the development of 
the postwar U.S. 280-mm. "atomic gun." 29 

Because of Allied air superiority, railroad 
guns had to be kept in tunnels most of the 
time; they were rolled out and fired at 
night or on cloudy days and then hauled 
back into the tunnels. Early in March the 
German High Command offered to send 
down to Anzio a 280-mm. railroad battery 
and one even more powerful, a 320-mm. 
Czechoslovakian railroad battery; but the 
commanding general of the German Four- 
teenth Army at Anzio reported that no 
suitable tunnels were available, since the 
tunnel farthest to the south gave an effective 
range of only three kilometers in front of 
the main German line of resistance. Two 
weeks later the Fourteenth Army was ex- 
pecting a railroad battery of 320-mm. guns, 
but it does not appear that they ever arrived. 
The railroad guns most used at Anzio were 
a battery of 2 1 o-mm. kept in a tunnel west 
of Albano, not far from Castel Gandolfo, 
the Pope's summer palace. 30 

Every time a shell from a large long- 
range gun hit the Anzio beachhead, and 
they continued to hit regularly until the 
breakout in May, the troops blamed it on 
Anzio Annie, but the Germans had a for- 
midable array of heavy artillery in addition 
to the railroad guns: 220-mm. howitzers, 
2 1 o-mm. howitzers, and 170-mm. guns. 



28 ( 1 ) T/Sgt. Milton Lehman, "Anzio Express," 
Firepower (June-July 1945), p. 16. (2) David In- 
terv. 



29 ( 1 ) Lehman, "Anzio Express," Firepower 
(June-July 1945), p. 16. (2) Journal of the Four- 
teenth Army, in German Mil Doc Sec Rpt on Anzio, 
pp. 27, 36. (3) Lt. Col. W. L. Nicholson, The 
Canadians in Italy, 1943-1945. Official History of 
the Canadian Army in the Second World War, 
vol. II (Ottawa, 1956), p. 390. (4) Rpt on 
280-mm. German gun in OI-343-44 C, Source: 
Ord Intell Unit D, Ord Tech Intel Files. 

30 ( 1 ) Journal of the Fourteenth Army. (2) 
Clark, Calculated Risk, pp. 325-26. (3) Truscott, 
Command Missions, p. 337. (4) AGF Board Rpt 
NATO, No. 126, 2 Mar 44, Field Artillery. 



ANZIO AND ARTILLERY 



201 



«-ii«wnii 




Anzio Annie, from a German water color. 



The 170's, on surrounding hills, possessing 
a range of about 30,000 yards, did more 
damage than the railroad guns. On 16 
February, when the Germans began their 
big counteroffensive, they fired 454 rounds 
from six 170-mm. guns and only 50 rounds 
from two 210-mm. railroad guns. On 29 
February they had eighteen 170-mm. guns, 
from which they fired 600 rounds; and on 
that day they fired only 12 rounds from 
their 2 10-mm. railroad guns. 31 The railroad 
guns were freaks; but Anzio Annie symbol- 



31 ( 1 ) Sidney T. Mathews, "The Drive on 
Rome," ch. V, p. 73, MS, OCMH. (2) German 
Mil Doc Sec Rpt on Anzio, pp. 54, 74. 



ized a bitter truth — the Germans had in the 

170-mm. a gun that outranged the best gun 
the Allies had, the 155-mm. Long Tom, 
with its maximum range of 25,700 yards. 
It was at Anzio that the clamor for heavier 
artillery began. 32 

The 240-mm. Howitzer and 
8-inch Gun 

On the Cassino front the Allied forces 
had by 22 February 1944 in addition 
to sixty 155-mm. Long Toms, twelve 



^Interv, General Marshall by Lamson, Hamil- 
ton, Mathews, and Smyth, 25 Jul 49, OCMH. 



202 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



240-mm. howitzers, which had a range 
slightly less than the Long Tom but a pro- 
jectile more than three times as powerful. 
The 240-mm. howitzer and the 8-inch gun 
were the heaviest mobile U.S. artillery 
weapons. The designers had intended that 
both use the same mount, in line with the 
Ordnance Department's policy of pairing a 
gun (a long-barreled cannon of high muz- 
zle velocity) with a howitzer (a short- 
barreled cannon of low muzzle velocity, 
firing shells in a relatively high trajectory) 
of approximately the same caliber. Next 
in power in the gun-howitzer pairs were the 
155-mm. gun and the 8-inch howitzer, and 
last were the 4.5-inch gun and the 155-mm. 
howitzer, which were considered medium, 
rather than heavy, artillery. 33 

The theater had not requested the 240- 
mm. howitzers. Early in October 1943 
the commanding general of NATOUSA 
had asked the War Department for 55 
tubes for 155-mm. guns, needed because 
the guns had been fired so much of the time 
at extreme ranges, necessitating the use of 
supercharge ammunition, that the tubes 
were beginning to wear out. In reply to 
this request, Maj. Gen. Wilhelm D. Styer, 
chief of staff of Army Service Forces, 
cabled that the tubes were not immediately 
available and asked whether the theater 
could use the 240-mm. howitzer for some 
missions then assigned to the 155-mm. 
gun. 31 

At the time, the U.S. commanders in 
Italy were not eager for the 240-mm. how- 
itzer. General Lucas, then commander of 
VI Corps, was "doubtful of the value of the 



240 howitzer in this country." The Fifth 
Army Artillery officer thought that both the 
240-mm. howitzer and the 8-inch gun 
would be "quite useful," but that "the 
road net and mountains make their move- 
ment and employment extremely diffi- 
cult." 35 Nevertheless, the theater agreed 
to accept two battalions of 240-mm. 
howitzers and also asked for two battalions 
of 8-inch howitzers, which had a range of 
18,500 yards. The four battalions were to 
be used "for destruction of field fortifica- 
tions and to relieve 155-mm. Mi units of 
many missions which are now causing rapid 
destruction [of] gun tubes." 3fi 

Two battalions of 8-inch howitzers were 
in position on the main Italian front by 20 
November 1943 and were immediately suc- 
cessful, especially for close support of in- 
fantry, because of their accuracy and 
power. The 240-mm. howitzers were de- 
layed because the heavy tractor designed to 
move them was not yet available. The 
Ordnance Department recommended that 
the T2 tank recovery vehicle, with modifi- 
cations, be used. In spite of the Field Ar- 
tillery Board's objections, the T2 was 
decided upon, and the 240-mm. howitzers 
were shipped before the end of 1943. 37 

Successfully moved by the T2 tank re- 
covery vehicle, two batteries of 240-mm. 
howitzers were in position near Mignano on 



33 Maj. Gen. Gladeon M. Barnes, Weapons of 
World War II (New York: D. Van Nostrand Co., 
Inc., 1947), PP- 124-39- 

M Msg, Styer to CG NATO, No. 9745, 9 Oct 
43. ASF Planning Div, Theater Br, Class II. 



35 Rpt, Director of Intelligence, ASF, n.d., sub: 
Report from AGF Board Report, 26 Nov 43, ASF 
Planning Div, Theater Br, General File 17, Les- 
sons Learned. 

"°Msg, Algiers to WAR No. W 2842/9222, 19 
Oct 43, ASF Planning Div, Theater Br, Class II. 

37 (1) AGF Board Rpt NATO No. 107, 10 Jan 
44, pp- 30-31. (2) Msg, Marshall to Eisenhower, 
No. 2228, 9 Nov 43; also, Msgs and Memos, 15- 
24 Nov in ASF Planning Div, Theater Br, Class 
II. (3) Memo, CG ASF for CofOrd, 30 Oct 43, sub: 
240-mm. Howitzer and Prime Mover; 1st Ind, 3 
Nov 43, in Rpt, OCO Tech Div, 240-mm. Howitzer 
Materiel, OHF. 



ANZIO AND ARTILLERY 



203 




240-mm. Howitzer in the San Vittore Area 



27 January and began tiring next day. Both 
battalions of 8-inch howitzers were in action 
on the Cassino front by the end of the third 
week in February. Remarkably accurate, 
with a very small expenditure of ammuni- 
tion the howitzers demolished important 
bridges behind the German lines, notably 
the bridge at Pontecorvo funneling traffic 
from the south and west into the Liri 
Valley. They were extremely effective 
against big buildings in Cassino and other 
heavy masonry structures, especially when 
used with the concrete-piercing fuze. Ac- 
cording to a British artillery brigadier, the 



fire of the 240-mm. and 8-inch howitzer 
batteries was largely responsible for the 
ultimate reduction of the monastery at Cas- 
sino. 38 

The heavy howitzers were ideal for the 
main Fifth Army front, which was "how- 
itzer country," because they could deliver 
a heavy weight of explosive on the reverse 



38 ( 1 ) Narrative, 698th Field Arty Bn, Feb-Dec 
44. ( 2 ) AGF Board Rpts NATO, No. 1 26, 2 Mar 44, 
and No. 168, 10 Jul 44. (3) Rpt, Col J. M. Roamer, 
13 May 44, sub: Ammunition Supply, NATO, ASF 
Planning Div, Theater Br, General File 17, Folder, 
Lessons Learned. 



204 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



slopes of mountains. In operations in the 
high Apennines after the capture of Rome, 
Maj. Gen. Alfred M. Gruenther considered 
the 240-mm. howitzer the most generally 
satisfactory artillery weapon Fifth Army 
had. Late in March 1944 twelve 8-inch 
howitzers and two 240-mm. howitzers were 
sent from the Cassino front to Anzio. In 
their first mission they demolished a tower 
in Littoria, a strong German observation 
point that the Germans had been using to 
direct fire on the port. 39 

In such special situations the howitzers 
were invaluable, but the answer to the Ger- 
man 170-mm. gun was the 8-inch gun, 
which had a range of 35,000 yards, out- 
ranging the 170-mm. by about 5,000 
yards. 40 The Caliber Board Report of 19 19 
had recommended the development of a 
long-range 8-inch gun along with the long- 
range 240-mm. howitzer, and the Chief of 
Field Artillery had asked the Chief of Ord- 
nance in January 1940 to procure pilot 
models of both, but the Army's interest in 
heavy artillery had lapsed in the early years 
of the war when the Germans were demon- 
strating so spectacularly the effectiveness of 
dive bombers and tanks. It revived after 
Tunisia, where the U.S. forces had come up 
against the 170-mm. gun for the first time. 
Returning from North Africa, General Mc- 
Nair on 15 May 1943 had stated, "Instead 
of artillery becoming an arm which is tend- 
ing to fade out of the picture under the 



pressure of air power or tanks, it is there in 
the -same strength and importance that it 
had in the [first] World War." 41 The 240- 
mm. howitzer, rather than the 8-inch gun, 
however, received most of the benefit from 
the renewed interest in heavy artillery. 

The 240-mm. howitzer was standardized 
in the spring of 1943, the 8-inch gun in 
December 1943. General McNair con- 
sidered the ammunition for the 8-inch gun 
unsatisfactory; there was also trouble with 
the carriage. Though originally it was 
thought that the same mount could be used 
for both the heavy howitzer and the gun, 
the 65-degree elevation for the howitzer 
could not be accommodated to the plus 
10-degree elevation of the gun, and there- 
fore another carriage for the gun had to be 
devised. 42 

Field Artillery officers wanted to wait 
until the gun and carriage were improved 
before sending them to the battlefield. The 
Ordnance Department took the position 
that although improvements were desir- 
able, the guns ought to get into action. 
General Campbell urged General Somer- 
vell early in July 1943 to speed the produc- 
tion of the 8-inch gun as well as the 240- 
mm. howitzer; a few days before Salerno 
General Barnes, the head of Ordnance's 
Research and Development Division, told 
the AGF Ordnance officer that the guns 
were all right "and not to be using them 
is wasting a tremendous amount of fire- 



30 ( 1 ) Transcript, Telephone conversation with 
General Gruenther, CofS Fifth Army, 4 Nov 44, 
Folder, Telephone Conversations of Gen McNar- 
ney, CG MTOUSA, 4 Nov 44 to 22 Sep 45, 
MTOUSA/Office Secretary of General Staff Files, 
KCRC. (2) O.O.B., 3 Apr 44, Annex 1, OHF. (3) 
Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 338-39. 

<0 Barnes, Weapons of World War II, p. 137, 
quoting General Lewis, Fifth Army Artillery of- 
ficer. 



41 ( 1 ) New York Times, 16 May 43. (2) See 
also statement by Brig Gen Robert V. Maraist, 
Artillery Officer of 1st Armored Div, 16 Jun 43, 
quoted in OCO Rpt, Heavy Self-Propelled Artil- 
lery, 1 Sep 44, p. 65, OHF. 

"Memo, McNair, CG AGF, for CG ASF, 12 
Apr 43, sub: Heavy Field Artillery; and OCM 
20328, 17 Mar 43, in Rpt, OCO Tech Div, 240- 
mm. Howitzer Materiel, OHF. 



ANZIO AND ARTILLERY 



205 



power which is definitely needed in opera- 
tions on the continent." 43 

It took Anzio Annie to clinch the argu- 
ment, for until she spoke the theater was in 
no hurry for the big gun. When Brig. 
Gen. Gordon M. Wells, chief of Ordnance's 
Artillery Division, visited the Cassino front 
during Christmas week 1943 he noted that 
the German 170-mm. gun outranged all 
Allied artillery in the theater, making it nec- 
essary to move the 155-mm. guns far for- 
ward for effective counterbattery action; 
that the 8-inch gun would no doubt provide 
the proper remedy; and that Fifth Army, 
though still concerned about the transpor- 
tation problem, intended to request 8-inch 
guns "as soon as they are ready for issue." 44 
A battalion was in fact then ready but it 
was earmarked for the ETO. Colonel 
Crawford, Ordnance officer of AFHQ, 
suggested during the first week of January 
that some of the big guns might be diverted 
to Italy, but Maj. Gen. Lowell W. Rooks, 
AFHQ G— 3, replied that though later de- 
velopments might disclose a need for an 8- 
inch gun battalion, he could see no prospect 
of being able to accept such a battalion for 
several months. Six weeks later, in mid- 
February 1944, Fifth Army wanted 8-inch 
guns immediately, to be used by a converted 
155-mm. howitzer battalion without wait- 



43 ( 1 ) Memo, General Campbell for General 
Somervell, 6 Jul 43, sub: Heavy Mobile Artillery, 
in OCO Rpt, 240-mm. Howitzer Materiel, OHF. 
(2) Barnes Diary, 4 Sep 43, OHF; and see OCO 
Rpt. 8" Gun Materiel, OHF. (3) For efforts by 
Ordnance to get heavy artillery and heavy artillery 
ammunition into production, see Thomson and 
Mayo, Procurement and Supply, pp. 100-103, r 44~ 
45- 

"Memo, Wells for CofOrd, 5 Feb 44, sub: Re- 
port of Observations in the Mediterranean Theater 
(hereafter cited as Wells Rpt, 5 Feb 44), Folder 
Gen Wells' Trip to Battle Areas #1. 



ing until men for an 8-inch gun battalion 
could be trained and equipped. 45 

Four 8-inch guns arrived in Italy at the 
end of April 1944 and were assigned to the 
240-mm. howitzer battalions. Two went 
to the Cassino front, two to Anzio. The 
ammunition for them arrived just in time 
for the big guns to add their roar to the 
great salvo from Cassino to the sea that 
heralded the beginning of the battle for 
Rome on 11 May. They silenced 170-mm. 
guns emplaced deep in enemy territory; 
they harassed areas the Germans had hith- 
erto considered .safe; and to intensify the 
effect on the enemy's morale, Ordnance 
troops had bored holes in the windshield of 
the shell to produce a scream. In the 
Anzio breakout, beginning 23 May, the 
8-inch guns shattered power and railway 
stations in Albano, cratered roads, and 
generally hampered the retreat of the Ger- 
mans. In moving the big guns and howit- 
zers forward on both fronts in the drive for 
Rome, the T2 tank recovery vehicle justi- 
fied the confidence the Ordnance Depart- 
ment had placed in it. The use of the 8- 
inch guns and 240-mm. howitzers on the 
Italian front was nevertheless comparative- 
ly brief. After the capture of Rome, the 
shipment of guns to the high-priority Euro- 
pean theater began and by November 1944 
none of the 8-inch guns and 240-mm. how- 
itzers were left in Italy. 46 



45 ( 1 ) Msg, Marshall to Eisenhower, No. 6251, 

2 Jan 44. (2) Memo, Crawford for G-3 AFHQ, 

3 Jan 44, sub: 8-Inch Guns. (3) Memo, Rooks 
for Ord, 6 Jan 44, sub: 8-Inch Guns. All in MTO 
Ord Sec 472 Guns (General) 1944, KCRC. (4) 
Col G. G. Eddy, Rpt of New Weapons Board, 27 
Apr 44, pp. 39, 51, OHF. (5) AGF Board Rpt, 
NATO, No. 126, 2 Mar 44. 

40 (1) AGF Bd Rpts, NATO, Nos. 168, 171. 

(2) Narrative, 698th Field Arty Bn, Feb-Dec 44. 

(3) Mathewson Rpt, p. 8. (4) Rpts of Opns of 
II Corps in the Italian Campaign 1 Apr-30 Jun 



206 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



"Balanced Artillery Firepower" 

For most of the Italian campaign, the 
brunt of the long-range heavy artillery duels 
was borne by the 155-mm. Long Toms. 
Massed close behind the front lines and 
fired for 90 percent of the time (instead of 
the conventional 20 percent) at maximum 
range with supercharge ammunition, they 
performed nobly. This unorthodox use, 
which had begun in Tunisia, soon wore out 
the tubes. A correspondent who visited an 
Ordnance heavy maintenance company 
near the Volturno River has left a vivid 
description of the tube-changing operation, 
which "looked like a meeting of dinosaurs. 
Heavy wreckers with long-necked cranes 
sparred and maneuvered through the mud. 
One eight-wheeled wrecker with an enor- 
mous boom backed up to the gun and the 
boom was hooked to the worn-out gun bar- 
rel. A second wrecker edged its way up, 
until its winch was in position to ease the 
great gun carriage forward. When the old 
tube had been extracted, the new one, as 
long as a telephone pole, and weighing 
9,500 pounds, was lifted into the air. To 
act as counterbalance for the heavy breech 
end while the tube was being lowered into 
place, a group of men jumped up and sat 
astride the muzzle end of the gun like a row 
of schoolboys on a seesaw." 4T 

Tubes and other gun parts wore out so 
fast that the criteria of supply — the time 
factor and the number of guns — were 



44, II Corps Ord Sec, KCRC. (5) O.O.B. 154, 24 
Apr 44 through 195 A, 4 Jun 44, OHF. (6) Tele- 
phone Conversations of Gen McNarney, 4 Nov 44 
to 22 Sep 45. On 2 June two captured 170-mm. 
guns took some of the pressure off of the two 8- 
inch guns at Anzio. O.O.B. 193, 2 Jun 44, OHF. 

"Margaret Bourke-White, They Called it "Pur- 
ple Heart Valley" (New York: Simon and Schus- 
ter, 1944), p. 77. 



meaningless. When this became apparent 
in the fall of 1943, Colonel Niblo came for- 
ward with a suggestion that the time factor 
be ignored and that the supply of gun tubes, 
gas check pads, and other items be based 
on the only factor that really counted — the 
number of rounds fired. Aware that tubes 
began to wear out after about 1,200 rounds, 
causing thrown rotating bands and short 
bursts, he suggested that with every 1,200 
rounds of 155-mm. Mi gun ammunition 
requisitioned, one gun tube and three gas 
check pads be authorized. 48 

Colonel Crawford at AFHQ followed up 
with an official recommendation that spare 
guns or gun tubes and spare gas check 
pads be provided on the basis of the amount 
of ammunition manufactured for the weap- 
ons, and General Wells, chief of Ordnance's 
Artillery Division, backed him up. Unfor- 
tunately, the policy could not be put into 
effect because there were not enough of the 
items, especially the tubes, in the United 
States. The stalemate at Anzio and the in- 
creased effort on both fronts brought alarm- 
ing demands for tubes. NATOUSA asked 
for 192 in February 1944 — 96 for imme- 
diate replacement and 96 to be shipped not 
later than 15 March. That many were not 
available. By robbing the Navy, the Euro- 
pean theater, the British, and troops in 
training in the United States, 144 could be 
made available, but only 48 replacements 
could be provided by 15 March. Colonel 
Niblo therefore had to inform the Fifth 
Army Artillery officer that for two or three 



48 ( 1 ) Ltr, McGrath to Crawford, 26 Nov 43, 
MTO Ord Sec 31 9.1, KCRC. (2) Ltr, Maj Allen 
S. Jorgensen to OCO, 22 Nov 43, sub: Technical 
Letter No. 17, Incl, Ordnance Technical Notes 
(Italian Campaign), MTO Ord Sec 400.113, 
KCRC. 




"Ordnance? Alim bavin* trouble with mah shootin' am. 



From Up Front by Bill Mauldin. Copyright 1944 by United Feature 

Syndicate, Inc. Copyright 1945 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. 

Reproduced by permission of Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. 



208 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



months restrictions would have to be placed 
on firing the Long Toms. 49 

This experience confirmed Niblo in the 
belief that firepower was the sum of five 
factors : first, a complete round of ammuni- 
tion; second, a gun tube that had not 
reached the limit of its serviceability; third, 
equilibrators (if applicable) to elevate the 
muzzle properly; fourth, a recoil system 
that met certain standard pressure tests; 
and fifth, a serviceable gas check pad. He 
was convinced that gun tube, equilibrators, 



40 (i) Ltr, Crawford to OCO, 29 Feb 44, sub: 
Technical Letter No. 19, MTO Ord Sec 400.113, 
KCRC. (2) Ltr, Brig Gen Gordon M. Wells to 
Col G. N. Taylor, '.'.2 Dec 43; and Ltr, Crawford 
to Wells, 3 Mar 44. Both in Folder Gen Wells' 
Trip to Battle Areas #1. (3) Memo, Col Frank 
A. Bogart for Gen Lutes, 26 Feb 44, sub: Gun 
Tubes for North Africa, and Incl, Status of Tubes 
for the 155-mm. Mi Gun, ASF Planning Div, Theat- 
er Br, Folder, North Africa. (4) O'Neill Interv. (5) 
Interv, Mathews with Tate. (6) Petersen Rpt, 14 
Feb 45- 



recoil system, and gas check pad must be 
arranged for, beginning with the manufac- 
turing program and ending with the distri- 
bution over the zone of combat, in proper 
proportion to the amount of ammunition 
supplied. He called this concept "balanced 
artillery firepower," and it was the subject 
of considerable discussion in Ordnance sup- 
ply circles in May 1944. 50 As yet it was 
only theory. As the battle for Rome began, 
a battle in which artillery was to play a 
great role, Niblo was forced to confess that 
"we are keeping just one jump in front of 
the sheriff in trying to make our ammuni- 
tion, tubes and recoils balance out and still 
meet tactical demands." 51 



50 (1) O.O.B. 162, 2 May 44. (2) Petersen Rpt, 
14 Feb 45. (3) Ltr, Crawford to Wells, 17 May 44, 
Folder, Gen Wells' Trip to Battle Areas #1. 

51 Ltr, Niblo to Wells, 20 May 44, Folder, Gen 
Wells' Trip to Battle Areas #1. 



CHAPTER XII 



Rome and "The Forgotten Front" 



Preparations for the May offensive began 
in March on both the Anzio front and the 
Cassino front. On the Cassino front forces 
were regrouped. To break through the 
Gustav Line, where mountain and town 
had defeated American, New Zealand, and 
Indian troops, General Alexander brought 
his Eighth Army from the Adriatic coast. 
For a simultaneous attack on the mountains 
that bordered the Tyrrhenian Sea, he 
shifted the Fifth Army — II Corps and the 
French Expeditionary Corps — westward to 
the lower Garigliano River. Under the 
cover of an elaborate deception plan de- 
signed to make the Germans expect an am- 
phibious landing at Civitavecchia, the 
changeover took place in the last two weeks 
in March. At the same time, II Corps 
underwent a reorganization. The 34th Divi- 
sion was sent to Anzio and the 36th Divi- 
sion was taken out of the line. Their places 
were taken by two divisions fresh from the 
United States, the 88th and 85th. 1 

The Ordnance forward maintenance 
group, which still bore the misleading desig- 
nation of the 2630th Battalion (Provision- 
al), moved to an area around Cascano on 
Highway 7 near the center of the new army 
zone south of the Garigliano. The men 
were glad to get away from the bloody 



Cassino front. Bombs dropped on Venafro 
by an Allied formation trying to bomb the 
town of Cassino on the night of 15 March, 
for example, had just cost the 42 d Battalion 
of the forward group one man killed and 
eleven wounded. In the Garigliano sector 
there was a lull throughout April. The 
maintenance men were able to concentrate 
on repairing or replacing equipment, send- 
ing contact parties to the new divisions, 
calibrating field artillery pieces, and check- 
ing spare parts. Army depots were fairly 
close to the front and the shortage of spare 
parts that had caused such anxiety during 
the winter had been somewhat relieved; 
General Wells had gotten action on the 
shortage as soon as he returned home in 
January. 2 

At the Anzio beachhead, spare parts 
were more plentiful than at any other time 
in the history of Fifth Army Ordnance. 
To provide insurance against a hit on the 
depot in the town of Anzio, Colonel Det- 
wiler removed half the supplies, splitting- 
each SNL group vertically, to an Italian 
ammunition loading plant one mile south 
of Nettuno, a building enclosed in a large 
earth bunker and fairly safe from enemy 
action. With the arrival of a second depot 



1 ( 1 ) Interv, Field Marshal Alexander, by S. T. 
Mathews 10-15 Jan 49, OCMH. (2) For the 
deception plan, see Fred Majdalany, The Battle 
of Cassino (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957), pp. 
254-57- 



2 (1) Histories 2630th, 188th and 42d Ord Bns 
for 1944. (2) Rpt Opns II Corps Italian Cam- 
paign, 31 Mar-30 Apr 44. (3) Ltr, Campbell to 
Niblo, 17 Jan 44; also other corres, Folder, Gen. 
Wells' Trip to Battle Areas #1. 



210 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



company early in April, the 201st (bor- 
rowed from Peninsular Base Section ) , Det- 
wiler had enough manpower to operate the 
twin depots effectively. Every job in 
both depots was handled by two men, one 
from the 77th Depot Company and one 
from the 201st, so that when the drive to 
Rome began, the 77 th could load its 16 
vans and follow, while the 201st could con- 
tinue to operate both depots after PBS took 
over the beachhead. 3 

On both fronts Ordnance mechanics cre- 
ated several ingenious devices to enable 
troops to advance through German de- 
fenses. At Anzio they made a portable 
artillery observation tower that folded into 
the bed of a truck, and they converted 
Italian farm tractors into driverless prime 
movers (called "mangle buggies") to tow 
long strips of primacord that would blow 
up barbed wire entanglements or detonate 
mine fields. At the Capua arsenal on the 
Cassino front they modified tank grousers, 
using a six-inch extension to the usual 
grousers, to help tanks cross the Pontine 
Marshes beyond the coastal mountains, and 
they manufactured "battle sleds." 4 

The battle sled, invented by Brig. Gen. 
John W. O'Daniel (Truscott's successor as 
commander of the 3d Division), was half 
a torpedo shell, just large enough to hold 
one soldier lying down. Six were hooked 



3 ( 1 ) History Ord Service MTO, ch. IV, Part 
2, p. 83. (2) Detwiler, "Ordnance at Anzio," 
Army Ordnance, XXVIII, 148 (January-February 
1945), P- 102. 

4 (1) Niblo Rpt, 30 May 44. (2) Clark, Cal- 
culated Risk, pp. 343-44. (3) After Action Re- 
port Maint Bn 1st Armd Div 1 Jan-May 44, D 
844.13, Armored School Library. The Capua 
shops also manufactured thousands of rifle grenade 
adapters and supplied the hospitals with such 
items as mosquito-bar frames and X-Ray equip- 
ment. Histories 88 1 st and 529th Ord Heavy Auto 
Maint Cos, Jan-Dec 44. 



together and attached to each side of a 
tank and the twelve sleds were pulled for- 
ward in the paths made by the tank's 
tracks, enabling an infantry squad to ac- 
company a tank without being exposed to 
small arms fire and antipersonnel mines. 
After O'Daniel sent Ordnance a sketch of 
what he wanted, Colonel Jaynes and his 
staff developed a model with runners, to 
prevent heat from friction, and made the 
sleds in an atmosphere of the greatest 
secrecy in a field near the Capua shops. 
They set up a production line, using 80 
welding sets in stalls under a big circus 
tent, and with the expert supervision of 
Sergeant Sellfors as chief welder, Fifth 
Army and PBS mechanics working in 8- 
hour shifts manufactured 360 sleds between 
29 April and 14 May. 

All the sleds were used in the breakout 
at Anzio. The worst impediments were 
ditches and mines that immobilized the 
tanks. In one regiment a platoon of tanks 
and four sets of sleds failed to get into 
action because of rough ground and the 
loss of several tanks from mines; in another, 
the results were negligible because the ter- 
rain was unsuitable; in a third unit, the 
towed infantry, supported by the tanks, 
took a strongly fortified house. Infantry- 
men were not enthusiastic about the sleds 
because they felt like "dead ducks" lying 
so close behind the tanks. General 
O'Daniel felt that the combat test was not 
conclusive, and that these special devices 
should be employed against organized posi- 
tions when terrain and antitank defenses 
permitted. Half the sleds were salvaged 
from the battlefield and used in the inva- 
sion of southern France/' 



r ' ( 1 ) Truscott, Command Missions, p. 360. (2) 
O'Neill Interv. (3) David Interv. (4) History 529th 
Ord HAM Co, Jan-Dec 44. 



ROME AND "THE FORGOTTEN FRONT 5 



211 



In preparation for the "big shoot" that 
began the drive on Rome, Ordnance men 
handled thousands of tons of ammunition. 
Beginning at 2300 on 1 1 May, in what 
General Clark called "perhaps the most 
effective artillery bombardment of the 
campaign," 173,941 rounds of artillery am- 
munition of all types were fired in twenty - 
four hours. The 2652d (later 236th) 
Ammunition Company serving II Corps 
made a remarkable record. On 11, 12, 
and 13 May a detachment, helped by 200 
Italians, handled about 2,500 tons a day 
at the ASP for divisional weapons; and a 
detachment of only 25 men with the help 
of 100 Italians completely stocked a 1,700- 
ton ASP for artillery in twenty-four hours. 

At Anzio and on the main front massed 
artillery fire, in which all guns within a 
corps were concentrated on a single objec- 
tive, played a spectacular part in the Allied 
advance. The Germans were awed by the 
lavish use of ammunition; prisoners of war 
said that the intensity, accuracy, and 
volume of the Allied artillery fire, exceed- 
ing anything they had experienced on the 
Russian front, caused "a general feeling of 
helplessness, panic, and confusion" in the 
ranks. At Anzio a refinement of this tech- 
nique was employed. Allowing for the dif- 
ference in the time of flight of the shells of 
the various guns, the weapons were so fired 
as to insure that all shells reached the tar- 
get simultaneously (called time on target, 
or TOT). The results disrupted enemy 
supply lines and shattered morale. German 
officers said their men trembled when it 
began. 7 



6 ( 1 ) Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 346. ( 2 ) Mathevv- 
son Rpt. (3) History 236th Ord Ammunition Co, 
1944- 

7 ( 1 ) AGF Board Rpts NATO, No. A-Misc- 
100, Field Artillery, 22 May 44; No. 171, FA, 



The attack jumped off and though there 
was bitter fighting in the Fifth Army sector 
for the first few days, the French Expedi- 
tionary Corps and II Corps advanced 
steadily. By 19 May the Germans were 
retreating toward their next defensive posi- 
tion, the Hitler Line, at Terracina. On 
21 May there was a symbolic union with 
the Anzio beachhead when a II Corps 8- 
inch gun below Monte Biagio and a VI 
Corps 8-inch gun at Anzio fired on the 
same target, the town of Sezze. Terracina 
fell on 24 May. Next day the Allies 
pushed into the Pontine Marshes and 
joined the forces coming from the beach- 
head. Ordnance units moved on the heels 
of the combat forces; on 29 May at Littoria 
the forward group headquarters was joined 
by its 45th Battalion. To supply the fast- 
moving attack Colonel Tate had sent army 
trucks from rear areas with rations, gaso- 
line, ammunition, and engineering equip- 
ment to points designated by the divisions 
and unloaded material from the tailgates of 
the trucks into division vehicles. He used 
this method until the troops from the main 
front joined the force from Anzio; there- 
after, all Fifth Army troops were supplied 
out of Anzio until the port of Civitavecchia 
was opened. 8 

The Allies Enter Rome 

The Allies entered Rome on 4 June 
1944, nine months after the landing at 
Salerno. In that time 11,292 Americans 
of Fifth Army had died in action. Twenty- 
two Ordnance men had been killed and 



15 Jul 44. (2) Field Artillery Information Letter 
#8, 30 May 44. (3) Truscott, Command Missions, 

P- 337- 

8 (i) Histories 2630th and 42d Ord Bns. (2) 
Interv, Mathews with Tate. 



212 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




M4 Tank Pulling Battle Sleds Around a Curve to demonstrate sleds' flexibility, 
Nettuno, Italy. 



165 had been wounded. Operating am- 
munition dumps under shellfire, making 
repairs under front-line conditions in the 
rain and mud, changing gun tubes at the 
battery sites, they had suffered many hard- 
ships, notably at Anzio, where 14 of the 
22 had lost their lives in the first two 
months. 9 

Ordnance men had learned to make the 
best of things. At Anzio they had dug an 
underground movie theater, called the 
"Diggers' Dream"; and when their rations 
improved in April they were grateful for 
such luxuries as "old fashioned eggs" and 
Coca Cola, "enjoyed with the symphonic 



shell whining while dining." lu On the 
main front of "mules, mountains and 
mud," they had become accustomed to 
getting along with a heterogeneous collec- 
tion of human beings of many kinds and 
nationalities, including turbaned Indians, 
Scottish bagpipers, French Goumiers, and 
a battalion of Japanese-Americans. In the 
foxholes around Cassino Colonel David 
had even found some sailors who had left 
their ships and gotten rides to the front to 
do some fighting. The French Goums 
with their burnooses, their old Enfield rifles, 
and their women — each tabor (battalion) 
had forty women who, observed General 



8 (0 Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 365. (2) His- 
tory Ord Service MTO, ch. IV, pt. 2, p. 82. 



10 After Action Rpt Maint Bn 1st Armd Div, 
Jan-May 44. 



ROME AND "THE FORGOTTEN FRONT" 



213 



Lucas, "look after the wounded and per- 
form other functions" — were an unfailing 
source of interest, as were the French Ord- 
nance companies who took the tools out of 
their shop trucks, stacked them on the 
ground, and used the trucks as house trail- 
ers. All this was instructive and some- 
times amusing. But on the whole, as Ernie 
Pyle reflected in the plane carrying him 
from Italy to England, "it had been bitter. 
Few of us can conjure up any truly fond 
memories of the Italian campaign." " 

"The Forgotten Front" 

Two days after Fifth Army entered 
Rome, the Allies landed in Normandy. 
Preparations for the cross-Channel attack 
had been going on since the fall of 1943. 
With the end of the campaign in Sicily, 
men began to leave the Mediterranean for 
England, and by December 1943, when 
General Eisenhower departed to command 
Overlord, Italy was already becoming a 
secondary theater. After the capture of 
Rome, Army planners concentrated on the 
defeat of Germany in the European Theater 
of Operations. The invasion of southern 
France (Dragoon) by Seventh Army, 
which was mounted from Naples in August 
1944, took from General Clark all of VI 
Corps (3d, 36th, and 45th Divisions) and 
the French Expeditionary Corps, and 
robbed Colonel Niblo of a great many of 
his men, enough to form two Ordnance 
groups. The attrition continued; Italy 
sank to such a low priority on the list of 
theaters that by the winter of 1944-45 the 
men there began to feel that they were on 



a "forgotten front." 12 

Because of the low priority for supplies 
for Italy after Rome's capture, Fifth Army 
was forced, more than any other army, to 
make the best of what was already avail- 
able in the theater. Whenever there was a 
lull in action, combat areas were combed 
and guns, vehicles, clothing, equipment of 
every kind damaged or abandoned during 
battle were returned to the supply services. 
Quartermaster and Ordnance ran extensive 
salvage and reclamation facilities, far be- 
yond those normally expected of a field 
army. In the fall of 1944 Colonel Niblo 
(who was to become a brigadier general 
before the year was out), moved his heavy 
maintenance companies from Capua to 
Florence and there in the Fiat automobile 
plant set up what he called his "Willow 
Run" operation, a huge repair shop in 
which hundreds of Italian mechanics super- 
vised by Ordnance men completely rebuilt 
trucks and jeeps by assembly-line methods. 
With living quarters for the Ordnance 
troops above the shop and overhaul and 
depot sections set up in the Fiat garage 
near the main plant, the installation became 
one of Fifth Army's "show centers" during 
the winter of 1 944-45. 13 

Lessons of the Mediterranean 
Campaigns 

During the long winter evenings on the 
comparatively quiet front in northern Italy, 
waiting for supplies and replacements to 
build up for the spring offensive in 1945, 



11 ( 1 ) David Interv. (2) Diary of Maj Gen John 
P. Lucas, Part II, Italy, 10 Dec 43. (3) Pyle, Brave 
Men, p. 200. 



12 Clark, Calculated Risk, p. 423, quoting Rep- 
resentative Clare Boothe Luce. 

13 ( 1 ) Truscott, Command Missions, pp. 458-59. 
(2) Niblo Rpt, 22 Aug 44, Incl 1. (3) Booklet, 
Fifth Army Ordnance Operations: Po Valley Cam- 
paign, OHF. 



214 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




Panther Tank 



combat commanders and staff officers had 
leisure for the first time to look back upon 
the campaigns in the Mediterranean. Fifth 
Army had had fifteen months of continuous 
combat in Italy. The memories of many 
of the officers, including Niblo, went back 
two years to North Africa. 14 

Materiel 

By early June 1944, the Allied forces in 
the Mediterranean had encountered most 
of the weapons that the Germans were 



M Niblo, Lessons of World War II. 



counting on for the defense of France. 
Land mines had been sown as lavishly in 
Italy as in North Africa, with the addition 
of the particularly vicious antipersonnel 
Schuetzenmine. In Italy first appeared 
the Panther tank; the self-propelled 88- 
mm. gun, as well as a new model of the 88, 
the Flak 41, which had a longer range, 
more muzzle velocity, and greater armor 
penetration than the American 90-mm. 
gun; and the miniature Goliath tank, a 
small, crewless, remote-controlled explosives 
container. Except for the Goliath, which 
was a failure, this was an impressive array 
of new weapons. The best counterweapon 



ROME AND "THE FORGOTTEN FRONT' 



215 



the Allies had was still their field artillery, 
received in Italy in larger calibers than had 
yet been employed as field artillery in 
World War II. The trial of new Ameri- 
can weapons such as the bazooka was in- 
conclusive in the Mediterranean because 
the theater received them in early models 
before improvements had been made. The 
improved models were reserved for Europe, 
as were the first of the American multiple 
rocket launchers, inspired by the German 
Nebelwerfer. 15 

The Panther tank (Pzkw V), which the 
Germans designed to supplant the Pzkw 
III and IV as their main fighting tank, 
carried a 75-mm. gun (Kwk 42), even 
longer than the long-barreled 75-mm. on 
the Pzkw IV Special, with a muzzle veloc- 
ity of 3,066 feet per second as compared 
with the 2,050 muzzle velocity of the 75- 
mm. gun on the U.S. M4 Sherman tank. 
In addition to an excellent suspension sys- 
tem, the tank had a long, sloping frontal 
plate (copied from the Soviet T34 tank) 
that was hard to penetrate. A distinctive 
feature was the turret, with its sloping 
walls. The Panther did not appear until 
the drive on Rome had reached the Liri 
Valley. By that time, the Germans' sup- 
ply routes had been so wrecked by Allied 
bombing that gasoline was in short supply, 
which severely limited tank operations. 
When the Allies got to the Hitler Line in 
the mountains they found installed there 
turrets taken from Panther tanks. 16 



Most of the Mediterranean campaigns 
had been fought in the mountains, in coun- 
try that was not, to use a British word, 
"tankable." It was mainly a war of artil- 
lery, infantry — and mules. One of the most 
surprising developments of the war was the 
necessity, beginning in northern Tunisia, 
of supplying isolated units by pack train. 
Scouring the countryside for mules and 
equipment, each division organized its own 
train of from 300 to 500 animals — "the 
most peculiar collection of little jackasses, 
packsaddles, ponies, and gear of all descrip- 
tion." 17 From Sicily onward, with one 
exception, the Germans had natural bar- 
riers of swift rivers and high mountains of 
which they took full advantage, using 
snipers, machine pistols and guns, artillery, 
blown bridges, and mines. 

The exception was Anzio, and it was 
there in the flat farmlands, where the ter- 
rain was more nearly like that of the battle- 
grounds of France and Germany, that the 
most fruitful lessons had been learned 
about weapons. The Germans in their 
attempts to drive the Allies from the beach- 
head had brilliantly employed their self- 
propelled 88-mm. Hornets and Elephants 
for harassing fire. They would bring the 
guns up to the perimeter of the beachhead, 
fire twenty or thirty rounds, and then 
quickly withdraw before the Allies could 
get the range. Self-propelled artillery was 
not new to the Allies, who had been using 
tank destroyers in that role for some time, 



15 ( 1 ) Green, Thomson, and Roots, Planning 
Munitions for War, p. 387. (2) Memo, Maj Gen 
G. M. Barnes for Gen Campbell, 6 Apr 44, sub: 
Comparison of German and American Weapons, 
Barnes-Campbell Corres, Barnes File, OHF. (3) 
Eddy Rpt. 27 Apr 44. (4) AGF Board Rpt NATO 
No. 91, Dec 1943. 



19 (1) U.S. Army Ordnance School, APG, Tank 
Data, July {958, pp. 59, 185. (2) Rpts, No. 7266- 
44, OI-340-44; No. 70802, OI-349-44, in Files 
Dev Div, OCO-D, copies in OHF. (3) Jarrett, 
Achtung Panzer, pp. 71-75, MS, Jarrett Collection. 
The first known capture of a Panther was on the 
Russian front around November 1943- Ibid., p. 71. 

17 Lucas Diary, Italy. 



216 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



but until the beachhead experience with the 
German 88's, there was little interest in 
self-propelled heavy artillery; most combat 
commanders preferred towed guns. In 
spite of the using arms' indifference, how- 
ever, the Ordnance Department had devel- 
oped a motor carriage for the 155-mm. 
gun, and it was ready in time to be used 
with good effect in Europe. 18 

"Much was fomenting at the time of the 
Anzio expedition," General Marshall later 
remembered; it was then that field com- 
manders abandoned the position that only 
light, mobile artillery was wanted and "be- 
gan yelling for heavy artillery." 1!) Largely 
because of the foresight of the Ordnance 
Department, which had always advocated 
longer ranges and heavier projectiles, Fifth 
Army got the 8-inch gun in time to use it 
in the drive on Rome. After the end of 
the war in Europe when General Truscott 
said that he had never taken his division, 
his corps, or his army into combat without 
the certain knowledge that the Germans 
had American artillery outranged and out- 
calibered, 20 he could only have been think- 
ing of the 280-mm. and 210-mm. railroad 
guns. But railroad guns, demanding tracks 
and tunnels, had limited use, to say the 
least. Against the German 170-mm. gun, 
which was the real long-range artillery 
menace on both Italian fronts in spite of 
the poor quality of its ammunition, Trus- 



18 ( 1 ) Truscott, Command Missions, p. 338. (2) 
Wells Rpt, Feb 44. (3) Eddy Rpt, 27 Apr 44. (4) 
Green, Thomson, and Roots, Planning Munitions 
for War, pp. 316-17. (5) Field Artillery Informa- 
tion Letter #3, 17 Mar 44, Fifth Army 475.1, 
KCRC. 

10 Interv, Marshall, 25 Jul 49. 

^Ltrs, Detwiler to Campbell, 4 Jun 45; Camp- 
bell to Detwiler, 14 Jun 45, Folder Artillery Fifth 
Army, OHF. 



cott admitted, the 8-inch gun put the 
Allies "on better than an even footing." - 1 
In the Mediterranean theater as in all 
the others, it was hard to say which was 
more important — the gun that fired the 
ammunition at the enemy or the truck that 
brought the ammunition to the gun posi- 
tion. General Lucas called the 2 /2-ton 
truck "the greatest military vehicle ever 
invented." Trucks and jeeps continued to 
win golden opinions from all; DUKW's 
and other automotive materiel such as tank 
transporters and tank recovery vehicles had 
been invaluable. The Ordnance shop 
truck gave excellent service and had an 
unexpected use as a command post trailer, 
beginning in North Africa. In the field, 
Ordnance men put a cot across one end, 
placed a desk and map boards on one side 
and cushioned seats on the other, and even 
fitted in a clothes closet and a wash basin 
with hot and cold running water, making 
"a very comfortable little house." " By 
February 1944 seventy were being con- 
structed in the Ordnance shops at Naples. 
The most elaborate was General Clark's, 
which had fine mahogany furniture and a 
specially woven rug of virgin wool. 23 

Supply 

The Mediterranean operations taught a 
great deal about supply. In the important 
nine months between Salerno and Rome, 
Colonel Niblo gave considerable study to 
the resupply of Class II, IV, and V items, 



21 Truscott, Command Missions, p. 339. On the 
large proportion of duds among 170-mm. projec- 
tiles, which "remained a source of curiosity through- 
out the campaign," see Lucas Diary, 19 Nov 43. 

22 Lucas Diary, Italy, 8 Sep, 20 Oct, 15 Nov 43. 

23 (1) Eddy Rpt, 27 Apr 44, pp. 44-45- (2) 
David Interv. 



ROME AND "THE FORGOTTEN FRONT" 



217 



"the paramount problem of Combat Zone 
Ordnance Service." The conclusion was 
that doctrine and methods were not suffi- 
ciently realistic or flexible. One reason for 
early shortages in artillery ammunition in 
Italy had been the fact that production 
rates in the United States had been based 
on experience in North Africa, where much 
smaller amounts had been used. Class II 
and IV supplies were inadequate at times 
because tables of equipment did not pro- 
vide enough guns or trucks to meet special 
situations and this caused a drain on main- 
tenance stocks. 

Automotive spare parts were nearly al- 
ways scarce. There were of course prob- 
lems of distribution, but in Niblo's opinion 
the main trouble was the too low estimate 
made in Washington of the spare parts that 
would be needed. Washington's estimate 
was based on the theory that 50 percent of 
the trucks issued would be replaced with 
new trucks when they broke down — and 
the replacement vehicles did not exist. 
Mortality tables for certain types of spare 
parts, notably brake linings, were sadly in- 
adequate for deep mud and other condi- 
tions of the Italian campaign. At the end 
of the Tunisia Campaign Ordnance plan- 
ners in the United States had begun a 
revision of SNL addenda to reflect actual 
consumption rates with the help of experi- 
ence data from the field, much of it contri- 
buted by Colonel Moffitt of Niblo's staff; 
but the effects of the re-evaluation could 
not be felt for some time. On the whole, 
men in the theater considered that resup- 
ply had been computed on an outmoded 
basis — the amount of materiel that would 
be consumed in a month or a year — rather 
than on the basis that really counted, which 
was the amount of ammunition that would 



be shot by a gun, or the number of miles 
a truck would travel. They had learned 
that it was useless to furnish thousands of 
rounds of artillery ammunition if gun tubes 
to fire the ammunition were not available; 
useless to furnish gasoline if there were not 
enough tires to keep the vehicles operat- 
ing. 24 

To make up for shortages caused by 
defects in the supply system, Niblo had had 
to use imagination and ingenuity. Ex- 
tremely "Ordnance-minded," according to 
General Tate, "he never permitted supply 
to lag." 25 Niblo saw to it that his ammu- 
nition men renovated unserviceable ammu- 
nition and recovered usable fuzes; a great 
deal of this work was done at Anzio. His 
collecting companies cleared the battle- 
fields, using techniques learned in Tunisia, 
and turned over to fourth echelon shops 
every vehicle and weapon that could be re- 
paired or cannibalized. He had learned 
from experience that more than 50 percent 
of certain critical spare parts had to be 
obtained in this way. 26 He used native 
labor and native machinery and materi- 
als on a scale larger than had ever before 
been attempted. On the Cassino front 
alone, by May 1 944 Fifth Army Ordnance 
Service was employing an average of 3,300 
Italian laborers a day; the Fifth Army 



24 ( 1 ) O.O. B. 21, 30 Jun 44, Lessons Learned 
in the Italian Campaign. (2) Intervs, Niblo of 28 
Sep 55; O'Neill; and Tate. (3) AGF Board Rpt 
No. A-105, 6 Jan 44. (4) Ltr, CofOrd to Deputy 
Theater Cmdr, NATO, 29 Jan 44, O.O. 35005/ 
9049/2. (5) Niblo Rpt, 16 May 44, Incl 1. 

25 Interv, Mathews with Tate. 

28 (1) Niblo Rpts, 25 Jul 44, Incl 4; 12 Jul 44, 
Incl 2. (2) The first Ordnance Ammunition Ren- 
ovation Company in the theater was activated by 
PBS on 26 July 1944. Ltr, Maj Gen Thomas B. 
Larkin to CG Northern Base Section, 29 Jul 44, 
Fifth Army 471 Gen, Vol. VIII, KCRC. 



218 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



engineer was using 1,200, the quarter- 
master, 250. " 7 

Many officers of the various supply serv- 
ices had become convinced that base sec- 
tions were outmoded. By the time base 
sections were established and operating, the 
front had moved too far away. Their 
shops and depots ran on union hours and 
consequently, as Colonel Crawford ex- 
pressed it, "did not respond to the surge of 
battle." This was apparent in North 
Africa early in the Mediterranean opera- 
tions and continued to be true in Italy. 
The discovery about base sections was one 
lesson that was applied to the planning for 
Europe. It led to the organization of an 
Advance Section to furnish close support to 
the armies. In January 1944 a party of 
ETO Advance Section officers visited Italy 
and North Africa to gather information on 
base section operations in the Mediter- 
ranean. 28 

Organization 

The most important gain for Ordnance 
in the Mediterranean campaigns was the 
emergence of an effective organization in 
the combat zone. Group organization, 
first tried in Tunisia, had been expanded in 
Italy and had proved that it was flexible 
enough to meet the ever-changing demands 
of battle commanders. It worked so well, 
according to testimony by General Tate, 
that Ordnance, except for inherent short- 



ages in certain spare parts and ammunition, 
never caused the Fifth Army G-4 any 
worries. The use of a group headquarters 
to command Ordnance troops was so suc- 
cessful that it was copied by the Fifth Army 
engineer and Fifth Army signal officer 
(though not, in spite of Tate's urging, by 
the quartermaster). The Fifth Army 
engineer considered that the very consider- 
able advantage he gained by having all 
Engineer troops under his direct command 
was "the primary administration lesson 
learned during the Italian campaign." ~ n 
Niblo's employment of three group head- 
quarters in the field, under the command 
group, had been equally successful. The 
group system was used in Europe and after 
the war became the standard organization 
of Ordnance service in the field army.™ 

In armies of the future, weapons would 
be different, methods of supply would 
change, new training would produce new 
skills, but men would not change very 
much. For Ordnance, perhaps the most 
useful lesson of the Mediterranean cam- 
paigns was a lesson in what men could do : 
what the Ordnance officer of an army 
could do to create an efficient organization ; 
what Ordnance company, battalion, and 
group commanders could achieve in close 
support of combat operations; what Ord- 
nance troops could accomplish and endure. 



27 ( 1 ) Red Vault 5th Army G-4 Hist Rpt 
Feb- 1 1 May 44. (2) Fifth Army Training Memo- 
randum 12, 15 Jul 44, Lessons Learned in the 
Battle from the Garigliano to North of Rome. 

28 (1) Intervs, Niblo, 28 Sep 55; Crawford. (2) 
Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies I, pp. 



20 (1) Interv, Mathews with Tate. (2) Campbell 
Comments. (3) Engr History Mediterranean The- 
ater — Fifth Army, vol. II, 1943-45, p. 266. 

30 ( 1 ) Rpt of the General Board, United States 
Forces, European Theater, Study 101 (hereafter 
cited as USFET Bd Rpt 101), The Employment 
of Ordnance Staff Sections, Ordnance Combat 
Service Units, and Ordnance Service Units in the 
European Campaign, ch. 6, sec 2. (2) DA FM 
9-10, Aug 51, p. 36-40. 



CHAPTER XIII 



Arming for the Grand Campaign 



From the Mediterranean, from the 
United States, from Guadalcanal and 
Kwajalein, commanders enplaned for Eng- 
land to begin the grand campaign of the 
war — the invasion of Europe. Lt.- Gen. 
Omar N. Bradley, commander of First 
Army, which was to spearhead the inva- 
sion, arrived in England in October 1943. 
By the end of October his staff was hard 
at work in the Gothic buildings of Clifton 
College at Bristol. The staff had to plan 
for the entire U.S. assault force of about 
600,000 men, assigned or attached to First 
Army during the invasion and the first 
two weeks in Normandy, the heaviest re- 
sponsibility placed on any staff at field 
army level during the war. Fortunately 
the planners did not have to depend on 
theory but could draw on a year of combat 
experience in the Mediterranean. Many 
of the staff had served with Bradley in II 
Corps. Among them were his G-4, Col. 
Robert W. Wilson, and his Ordnance 
officer, Col. John Bruce Medaris. 

Medaris brought with him extensive 
data, based on his service in Tunisia and 
Sicily, that was used by Brig. Gen. Henry 
B. Sayler, Chief Ordnance Officer, ETO- 
USA, in planning support for the vast 
operation. In the march on Germany 
there were eventually to be five U.S. armies, 
two American army groups. At the be- 
ginning, First Army was to be under the 2 1 
Army Group along with the Second British 



and First Canadian Armies. When Third 
Army landed on the Continent in August 
an American group was to be formed, the 
1 2th (called in the planning stage the 1st 
U.S. Army Group, or FUSAG), to which 
would be assigned the First, Third, and 
eventually the Ninth and Fifteenth Armies. 
And from the Mediterranean, landing at 
Marseille in Operation Dragoon, there 
would come another American group, the 
6th, composed of the Seventh U.S. Army 
and the French 1st Army. By May 1945 
the five U.S. armies on the Continent would 
total 1,703,613, a mighty force indeed 
when compared with the 231,306 Ameri- 
cans Fifth Army had had in Italy at its 
peak. 1 

Sayler had been Chief Ordnance Officer, 
ETOUSA, since July 1942, had been pro- 
moted to brigadier general in the spring of 
1943, and was to become a major general 
in June 1944. A longtime friend and class- 
mate of General Eisenhower, he was one of 
only two technical service chiefs who were 
West Pointers. His friendships in the thea- 
ter and his excellent relationship with his 
chief in Washington were definite assets to 
Ordnance. And he had the loyal support 



1 (i) Gordon A. Harrison, Cross-Channel At- 
tack, UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD 
WAR II (Washington, 1 95 1 ) , pp. 114-15- (2) 
USFET Bd Rpt 101, app. 16. (3) Forrest C 
Pogue, The Supreme Command, UNITED STATES 
ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1954), 
p. 542. (4) Fifth Army History, pt. VI, p. 139. 



220 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




Colonel Sayler. (Photograph taken 
after his promotion to brigadier general.) 

of his two staffs — the ETOUSA planning 
staff in London ( usually referred to as APO 
887) and the operating SOS staff in Chel- 
tenham (APO 871). Sayler's deputy in 
Cheltenham, Col. Joel G. Holmes, wrote to 
General Campbell, "If Ordnance is a suc- 
cess over here, and you can be damn sure 
it will be, Henry Sayler is the fellow re- 
sponsible for it. Every officer here has con- 
fidence in his ability and leadership, and 
we are all back of him one hundred per- 
cent." 2 

New Methods of Supply 

The ETOUSA SOS organization had 
learned a great deal about supply in the 
year after the Torch convoys sailed for 



2 (1) Memo, Sayler for G-3 ETOUSA, 22 Oct 
43, ETO Ord Sec 370.09 Requirements for Per- 
sonnel and Troops 1943, KCRC; (2) Interv, Maj 
Gen Henry B. Sayler, 19 Mar 58; (3) Ltr, Holmes 
to Campbell, 5 Jun 44, OCO-D Field Service 
Operations, Overseas File, 1944. 



North Africa. One important lesson was 
the folly of shipping troops to a theater 
ahead of their equipment. To prevent this 
from happening again, and to take ad- 
vantage of an excess of cargo space avail- 
able to ETOUSA in 1943, when troops 
were being sent to the Mediterranean, the 
theater persuaded the War Department to 
ship T/E allowances in advance of the 
units; moreover, to ship them in bulk, not 
marked for any particular unit. This pro- 
cedure was unprecedented and took a great 
deal of urging on the part of the theater 
and ASF, but it was finally put into effect 
in the summer of 1943. It was never en- 
tirely successful for at least two reasons : in 
the summer and early fall of 1943 it was 
hard to obtain stocks in the United States 
because of the theater's comparatively low 
priority at the time; later, the increasing 
troop movements crowded out cargo space 
in the ships. The system nevertheless was 
an improvement over the old one. 3 

Early in 1944, the War Department 
asked the theater to submit its requirements 
for "special" materiel — over and above 
T/BA's and T/E's — that would have to be 
procured in the United States for use by the 
supply services on the Continent. These 
items were called PROCO (projects for 
continental operations). For Ordnance, 
they meant from the start vehicles and 
more vehicles, of all types: tractors and 



3 ( 1 ) Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the 
Armies, I, 132-36. Unless otherwise indicated this 
chapter has been based on this source. (2) Ord 
Serv ETO: Plan and Organ, p. 206; Class II and 
IV Supply, Ann 1, Historical Notes, General Supply 
Division, MS, Lt Col Nathan B. Chenault, Jr. (here- 
after cited as Chenault History). (3) Rpt, General 
Board, United States Forces, European Theater, 
Ordnance Class II and IV Supply in European 
Theater of Operations, Ord Sec Study 99 (hereafter 
cited as USFET Bd Rpt 99), p. 17. 



ARMING FOR THE GRAND CAMPAIGN 



221 



trailers for its own depot companies; 
wreckers; gasoline tank trailers; tank trans- 
porters ; staff cars ; trucks for other services, 
mainly the Engineers and the Air Forces; 
beach kits of spare parts. In March 1944 
the theater cabled the War Department for 
weapons and vehicles to replace those that 
First Army expected to lose in its first 
month of operations. This was a new kind 
of PROCO item, but it was approved, and 
the shipment helped greatly in the early 
operations. 4 

Another innovation was introduced in 
July 1943 with the decision to package 45 
days of supply "amphibiously," that is, so 
that supplies would be waterproof and thus 
would not deteriorate when they went over 
the beaches. This posed a hard problem 
for the men of the theater Ordnance staff : 
since the packaging would have to be done 
in the United States — men, materials, and 
transportation to do it in England were 
lacking — should all of one particular item 
for the entire 45 days be sent over as one 
shipment or several shipments? The men 
did not know the detailed plans for the 
landing on the Continent, and indeed the 
plans were not firm; but they did know that 
two or more forces would have to be sup- 
plied along more than one supply route. 
They decided that the huge amphibiously 
packed stocks — -16,000 long tons of spare 
parts in 450,000 individual boxes — ought 
to be shipped from the United States ac- 
cording to their "group" designation. All 
Ordnance general supplies belonged in one 
of 26 groups, each designated by a letter of 



4 ( 1 ) Memo, Col Robert A. Case for Director 
of Supply, 18 Feb 44, sub: Report of Visit to 
Headquarters, SOS ETO, Incl 1, Tab M, ASF 
Distribution Div 400 ETO, 16-23 Feb 44. (2) 
Memos on PROCO projects in ASF Planning Div, 
Theater Br, ETO. (3) Chenault History. 



the alphabet, for example, Group A con- 
sisted of automatic weapons and mortars, 
Group B hand and shoulder arms, and so 
on. 5 Spare parts for each of these groups 
were shipped in 26 individual "bricks" and 
maintained their identity to their final point 
of destination on the European continent. 
The special packaging held up well. After 
the Normandy landings, an examination of 
thousands of boxes showed no deteriora- 
tion. 6 

For the Ordnance men at Cheltenham 
the new supply methods meant first of all a 
search for more depot space and vehicle 
parks. In 1942 there had been two Ord- 
nance branch depots, Tidworth in the 
Southern Base Section (SBS) and Rushden 
in the Eastern Base Section (EBS), and 
Ordnance sections in six general depots — 
Ashchurch, Taunton, and Hilsea in SBS 
and Barry, Moreton-on-Lugg, and Sudbury 
in the Western Base Section (WBS). In 
1943, as labor and materials became avail- 
able, branch depots were activated at War- 
minster for combat vehicles and at Castle 
Bromwich for tools, and Ordnance had 
obtained space at two more general depots, 
Coypool at the port of Plymouth and Wem 
near Liverpool. Five vehicle parks had 
been added to the six in existence in 1942. 
This amount of space had been planned for 
theater reserve stocks in Bolero and was 
obviously inadequate for Overlord. 

The program for the advance shipment 
of T/BA and T/E materiel alone, which 
went into effect in July 1943, entailed a 
sizable expansion in storage space: for ex- 
ample, the preshipped equipment for one 
infantry division included 2,089 vehicles. 



5 Thomson and Mayo, Procurement and Supply. 

PP- 356-57- 

"Chenault History. 



222 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



To take care of preshipment and other 
Overlord requirements, Ordnance acti- 
vated two additional branch depots, De- 
vizes and Upper Ballindery; obtained sec- 
tions at four general depots — Lockerly Hall, 
Boughton, Histon, and Honeybourne — and 
added five vehicle parks. The twelve 
Bolero depots were expanded or modified 
to fit into the new plan, making it neces- 
sary for certain bulk depots to act as issue 
depots also. Acres of Nissen huts covered 
the countryside. 7 

To see that the troops arriving in the 
theater got what they needed from the 
depots but not more than they were entitled 
to, Col. Graham B. Trainer and his General 
Supply Division staff at Cheltenham kept a 
close check on supplies. A simple, work- 
able system of stock control, which was 
based on the traditional Ordnance Provi- 
sion System (the submission by depots of a 
stores report monthly on each "group" of 
materiel and special reports as required on 
critical major items) and which had been 
in effect since early 1943, was considerably 
expanded. Clear-cut instructions on how 
to identify and report the materiel were 
issued to all general supply depots. Scan- 
ning ships' manifests, port records, and 
Transportation Corps forecasts of troop 
arrivals, Trainer's staff arranged for the 
storage of incoming equipment at the 
proper depot and issued credits for it when 
the troops arrived; thus no requisitions 
were required. 8 



Keeping records on the equipment sup- 
plied to thousands of units meant long hours 
of painstaking work for the men at Chel- 
tenham. Approximately 350 different types 
of units came into the theater during the 
build-up, each with a different T/BA and 
T/E; besides, many units had special au- 
thorizations, which complicated the prob- 
lem immeasurably. Not all could be 
equipped with full T/E, for many weapons 
or vehicles were in critical supply in the 
United States or had to be left behind be- 
cause of limitations on shipping. In order to 
provide Headquarters, ETOUSA, with ac- 
curate, current information on what was on 
hand with the troops or in the depots and 
what was required, the General Supply 
Division prepared a Monthly Materiel 
Status Report. This was an exceedingly 
difficult job, since reports from units in the 
field and information on ships' manifests 
were scanty and unsatisfactory, but it was 
finally accomplished after an exhaustive 
examination of requisitions, shipping orders, 
reports, and all sorts of documents, and was 
so successful that the other technical serv- 
ices used the report as a model. 9 

The Ordnance SOS troops to handle the 
vast tonnages that were expected began to 
arrive in the United Kingdom in the late 
summer of 1943, but the planners could not 
predict the arrivals with any degree of con- 
fidence. There were constant changes in 
requirements, availability, and shipment 
dates for the units; as one of the General 



7 ( 1 ) Ord Serv ETO, Class II and IV Supply, 
pp. 56-57, 502-03; and Annexes i, 16, 17, 19. (2) 
ComZone Staff Confs 3 Jan-25 Jun 44, notes for 10 
Jan, Admin 457 Staff Conference Notes 1944. 

8 (0 Manuals, Chief Ord Officer Hq SOS 
ETOUSA, APO 871, Standard Operating Proce- 
dure for Ordnance Service General Supply Depots 
in the European Theater of Operations; Hq ETO- 
USA, Standing Operating Procedure for the Issue 



of Initial Organizational Equipment to U.S. Forces 
in the U.K., 28 Mar 44, Ord Serv ETO, Class II 
and IV Supply, Annexes 20, 37. (2) Memo, APO 
871 for APO 881, 19 Oct 43, sub: Answers to G-4 
Questions for Army Ground Force Observers — 
Ordnance, ETO Ord Sec 320.1 Organization of 
Ordnance Department, KCRC. 

°Ord Serv ETO, Class II and IV Supply, pp. 
84-86. 



ARMING FOR THE GRAND CAMPAIGN 



223 



Supply men put it, "the jig-saw puzzle was 
never completed, for it seemed that a few 
pieces were always missing." 10 

One of the most important missing pieces 
was a new type of company that had been 
counted on to move trucks from docks or 
assembly plants to vehicle parks, operate 
the parks, and if necessary deliver the 
trucks to the troops — the motor vehicle dis- 
tributing (MVD) company. Badly needed 
during 1942, the MVD companies did not 
begin to arrive until July 1943, and only 
twelve of the nineteen scheduled for the 
theater between that date and May 1944 
ever arrived. It took months to orient and 
train the new arrivals. With every unit in 
the theater clamoring for trucks, Ordnance 
had to rely heavily on British manpower, 
civilian and military. The greatest help 
came from two British military units, the 
6th Vehicle Reception Detachment, which 
in November 1943 was still operating three 
of the busiest parks, and the 435th Gen- 
eral Transport Company, which in October 
1943 moved 60 percent of the vehicles 
driven from the ports or assembly plants to 
the parks. Both outfits received the ever- 
lasting gratitude of the men at Chelten- 
ham. 11 

Motor Vehicle Assembly 

In midsummer 1943 there was a flurry of 
anxiety about another type of Ordnance 
unit — the motor vehicle assembly (MVA) 
company, which put together cased vehi- 



cles. The greatest worry that summer con- 
cerned 2/2 -ton trucks; the vehicle parks 
had few left. Thousands were going to be 
needed in the fall to fill the T/BA require- 
ments of incoming combat and service 
troops. At the same time, crates contain- 
ing cased trucks were piling up at an 
alarming rate because the British Tilefer 
plants, which were assembling British and 
Canadian trucks as well as American, were 
falling behind. General Sayler cabled for 
two MVA companies in addition to the 
two already requested and asked that all 
four be expedited. But these units were 
also badly needed in the Pacific, and in the 
CBI where a great motor base was being 
set up at Calcutta. Only three arrived be- 
tween August and December and one of 
them had to spend weeks in further train- 
ing. 12 

On 7 August 1 943 General Sayler order- 
ed Ashchurch to start assembling 2 /2-ton 
trucks on 16 August. This very large order, 
to be filled in a very short time, went to the 
622d Base Automotive Battalion, which 
had no mechanics trained in assembly 
work, and, what was worse, none of the 
special equipment considered essential, such 
as overhead cranes, roller conveyors, and 
power tools. There was also at the time 
no SOP. Fortunately, the 62 2d had an 
energetic and enterprising commander, 



10 Chenault History. 

11 (i)Ord Serv ETO, Class II and IV Supply, 
pp. 22, 32-37, 93-99. (2) Ltr, Holmes to DCofOpns 
APO 871, 29 Nov 43, sub: British Units Operating 
in U.S. Establishments, ETO Ord Sec 370-A Activa- 
tion, Inactivation, Designation and Redesignation of 
Units, KCRC. 



12 (1) Memo, Ord Service APO 871 for Chief 
Ord Officer APO 887, 8 Jul 43, sub: Status of 
Assembly of 2 /2-ton, 6x6, Trucks (Long Wheel 
Base and Short Wheel Base), and Incl; Memo, 
Chief of Services APO 871 for Ord APO 871; 
both in ETO Ord Sec, O.S. 451 -A, Assembly 
Tilefer 1943, KCRC; (2) Memos, Ord APO 871, 
1 Aug 43; and Sayler, 3 Sep 43, in ETO Ord Sec 
370.09 Requirements for Personnel and Troops 
1943, KCRC. (3) Histories 144th and 145th, 146th, 
147th, 150th, 436th, 497th Motor Vehicle Assem- 
bly Cos. (4) ASF Plans Div, Theater Br, Diary 
Jun-Dec 43. 



224 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Maj. William R. Francis, who went to 
Treforest and studied the British Austin 
Motor Works assembly operation. "Yank 
ingenuity," as he expressed it, did the rest. 
With the help of two capable assistants, 
M. Sgt. Leroy Bell, shop foreman, and Pvt. 
George Phillips III, a time and motion 
study expert, he got the assembly line in 
operation by 18 August. Production rose 
when three newly arrived depot companies 
and the 497th MVA Company made a 
second shift possible. In the first three 
months of operation Ashchurch assembled 
5,000 trucks. 13 

On a smaller scale, Ordnance that fall 
began assembling 2/2 -ton trucks at Taun- 
ton and lighter cased vehicles, such as jeeps 
and water trailers, at Hedge End (Tid- 
worth) and eight other depots and vehicle 
parks. Between May and the end of De- 
cember 1943, Ordnance troops accounted 
for about 43 percent of the 60,703 general 
purpose vehicles assembled in England. 
But this kind of work began to slacken to- 
ward the end of 1943 because the cased 
vehicles of the most wanted types were not 
arriving in sufficient numbers. General Lee, 
commanding general of SOS, directed that 
the crates that came in were to be sent to 
Ministry of Supply plants in order to keep 
them operating at capacity, even though 
U.S. plants were idle, because the British 
plants would be badly needed in the spring 
when the theater's Number 1 priority would 
bring enormously increased shipments. 

The location of most of the U.S. assem- 
bly plants caused a further cut-down in 
Ordnance assembly in the spring of 1944. 
The already overburdened British railways 



could not take on the task of transporting 
the heavy crates from ports to inland depots 
and parks. Eight of the U.S. plants closed 
down; by D-day only Ashchurch and Brom- 
borough (O-631), established near Liver- 
pool in January 1944, were left. Most of 
the seven MVA companies that arrived be- 
tween January and May 1944 were sent to 
work in British case dumps near the ports. 14 

Preparations for a Short Sea Voyage 

By the end of January 1944 the massed 
weapons of war were everywhere, strange 
against the background of the quiet English 
countryside: hooded 90-mm. guns in a 
farmyard; row after row of Sherman tanks 
and half-tracks in an open field, white stars 
camouflaged with splashes of mud; acres 
of trucks, with extra gas and water cans on 
their running boards, in a park where huge 
trees spread their bare branches; miles of 
steel ammunition bays along narrow lanes. 15 

In London, where night and the black- 
out closed in early on days already darkened 
by rain and fog, firm planning had begun 
for the landing on the coast of Normandy, 
described in the ETOUSA Preparation for 
Overseas Movement (POM) as a "Short 
Sea Voyage." General Eisenhower had 
arrived in the theater and approved Mont- 
gomery's recommendation to land five divi- 
sions on D-day, three British and one Amer- 
ican on the Calvados coast, and one Amer- 
ican on the Cotentin coast north of the 



13 (1) History G-25, pp. 70-78. (2) Ord Serv 
ETO, Class II and IV Supply, Annex 54, "TUP 
Assembly Plant, U.S. General Depot G-25." 



14 ( 1 ) Ord Serv ETO, Class II and IV Supply, 
pp. 72-74, 127-39; ( 2 ) Ltr > Ma J Gen N. G. Holmes 
to Brisr Gen Frank S. Ross, 14 Sep 43, sub: Import 
of Boxed Vehicles on Behalf of U.S. Forces. (3) 
Ltr, Col Leo J. Dillon to Chief Ord Officer, SOS 
ETOUSA, APO 871,5 Dec 43, sub : Motor Vehicle 
Assembly in SBS; and 1st Ind, 8 Dec 43. Last two in 
ETO Ord Sec O.S. 451-A Assembly Tilefer, 
KCRC. 

™Life, vol. 16 (21 February 1944), 67-72. 



ARMING FOR THE GRAND CAMPAIGN 



225 




Hooded 105-mm. Howitzers Stored Near Ashchurch, England 



Carentan estuary. Eisenhower, who wanted 
"enough wallop in the initial attack," was 
also urging at least one airborne division, to 
be dropped behind the Cotentin force ; this 
was not firm, but had to be taken into ac- 
count in the planning. Also, D-day had 
been postponed until the end of May in 
order to gain an extra month's production 
of landing craft and increase the chance 
that the Russians would at the same time 
be attacking on the Eastern Front. 16 

At General Sayler's London headquar- 
ters, a handsome four-story town house at 
38 Grosvenor Square with an iron-rail - 
inged areaway and long drawing room 
windows taped against bomb concussion, 
plans for the Ordnance support of the in- 



vasion were taking shape. Because of the 
unhappy experience of Torch, when ex- 
cessive emphasis on security had required 
Ordnance men to work with little factual 
information, planning for Overlord was 
to a very great extent delegated to the tech- 
nical services. Detailed planning was also 
delegated to base sections, armies, corps, 
and air forces. 17 

General Sayler gave his "operating agen- 
cies" — -ground forces and air forces Ord- 
nance officers and the SOS Ordnance Sec- 
tion — the responsibility for determining 
basic data such as weight and volume of 



Pogue, The Supreme Command, pp. 



17 (1) Ordnance History, vol. I, ETO Ord Sec, 
KCRC. (2) Col. A. T. McNamara, "The Mount- 
ing of 'Torch' from England," Quartermaster Re- 
view, XXVII (July-August 1947), P- *3- 



226 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



units of supply and logistical factors; for 
nominating, training, and equipping Ord- 
nance units; for regulating issues of Ord- 
nance material and planning for water- 
proofing; for establishing the amount of 
ammunition to accompany troops; and for 
preparing weapon lists, vehicle lists, am- 
munition tonnages, and similar data. He 
gave his base section Ordnance officers the 
responsibility for nominating their own 
units and supplementing them when neces- 
sary with men from other supply services 
or with British civilians; for providing sup- 
ply points, repair shops and temporary am- 
munition supply points in the concentration, 
marshaling, and transit areas; and for es- 
tablishing procedures for issuing Ordnance 
supplies and ammunition to troops moving 
through those areas. 18 

Having drawn up a general plan outlin- 
ing these areas of responsibility, Sayler then 
took action to co-ordinate the plans of his 
key Ordnance officers. Since December 
1943 he had been distributing to them a 
weekly news letter and a useful Monthly 
Statistical Report containing the latest in- 
formation on Ordnance organization, in- 
stallations, manpower, and supplies, includ- 
ing forecasts of incoming cargo. Late in 
January he called the key Ordnance of- 
ficers together for the first of a series of con- 
ferences held throughout the spring at 38 
Grosvenor Square, against a background of 
damask walls, marble mantelpieces, and 
blackout curtains drawn night and day. 



18 ( 1 ) Tentative Draft of General Plan of Chief 
Ordnance Officer ETO for Mounting Cross-Chan- 
nel Operations, 29 Jan 44, ETO Ord Sec 381 
Plans, KCRC. (2) Ltr, Sayler to Distribution, 27 
Jan 44, sub: Ordnance Plans for Mounting Cross- 
Channel Operations. (3) Ordnance Plan, 2 Feb 
44. Last two in ETO Ord Sec O.S. 334 Meetings 
and Conferences General, KCRC. 



At the first conference, on 2 February 
1944, there were present General Sayler 
and four members of his London staff; 
Colonel Holmes and eight members of his 
staff from Cheltenham; Colonel Medaris 
and his assistant, Lt. Col. John Ray; two 
Air Ordnance officers, Col. William R. 
Maxwell of the Ninth Air Force and Col. 
Selby H. Frank of the Ninth Air Force 
Service Command ; the Ordnance officer of 
XV Corps, Col. William I. Wilson; and 
the four base section Ordnance officers, 
Col. Leo J. Dillon of Southern, Lt. Col. 
Arthur V. Harrington of Northern Ireland, 
Lt. Col. D. M. Pearson of Eastern, and Lt. 
Col. F. E. Smith of Western. There were 
also present that day representatives from 
two new organizations: Lt. Col. J. H. Rey- 
nolds from the G— 4 section of General 
Eisenhower's Supreme Headquarters, Allied 
Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) and Lt. 
Col. Russell R. Klanderman, assistant Ord- 
nance officer of Advance Section ( ADSEC ) , 
Communications Zone. 19 

Established provisionally at the end of 
December 1943, under the command of 
Col. Ewart G. Plank, ADSEC had been 
created to follow the armies more closely 
than a base section was able to do. It was 
one of the fruits of experience in the Medi- 
terranean campaigns, and in naming it the 
use of the word base was carefully avoided. 
Attached to First Army in the planning 
and invasion stage, ADSEC was to take 
over army rear installations about D plus 
15 or plus 20 and from then until D plus 
41, when the Forward Echelon, Communi- 
cations Zone (FECOMZ), was to take 



10 Hq ETOUSA Ord Sec, Notes on Conference 
to Develop Ordnance Plans for Mounting Cross- 
Channel Operations, 6 Feb 44, Incl 1, ETO Ord 
Sec O.S. 334 Meetings and Conferences General, 
KCRC. 



ARMING FOR THE GRAND CAMPAIGN 



227 



over, it was to be the sole support organiza- 
tion on the Continent. After that it was to 
move forward across Europe with the 
armies. Mobility was the watchword. Ord- 
nance in ADSEC had not only the respon- 
sibility for anticipating the needs of the 
combat forces and sending supplies for- 
ward, but for heavy maintenance work as 
close behind the armies as the tactical situa- 
tion permitted. The Ordnance Section 
was activated on 25 January 1944 and the 
Ordnance officer, Col. Benjamin S. Mesick, 
worked closely with Colonel Medaris, first 
in Bristol and later in London. 20 

Two officers who were present at the first 
conference attended subsequent conferences 
in new roles. Col. Harold A. Nisley, Say- 
ler's deputy in London, became Ordnance 
officer of First Army Group; and Col. E. M. 
Webb of the Cheltenham SOS Ordnance 
Section became Ordnance officer of the 
Forward Echelon, Communications Zone. 
Both were concerned primarily with the 
build-up on the Continent after the beach- 
head had been secured, and worked with 
2 1 Army Group rather than First Army. 
Late in the spring another officer whose 
planning was directed toward the second 
phase of operations appeared at the con- 
ferences, the Ordnance officer of Third 
Army, which was scheduled to become 
operative in France in August. For a brief 
time Col. Levi M. Bricker had the assign- 
ment; he was soon succeeded by Col. 



20 ( 1 ) Memo, Col James H. Stratton for Chief 
of Services, 28 Dec 43, sub: Headquarters, Ad- 
vance Section, Communications Zone, ETO Ord 
Sec O.S. 381 Plans, KCRC. (2) Col. Benjamin 
S. Mesick, "Feeding the Ordnance Flame," Logis- 
tics, I, 3 (April 1946), p. 91. (3) ADSEC 
COMZ, Office of the Ordnance Officer, Opera- 
tional Memorandum No. 5, Ordnance Service, 
Advance Section, Communications Zone, 25 May 
44, Ord Serv ETO, Plan & Organ, Annex 41. 



Thomas H. Nixon, brought from Sicily by 
his old commander, General Patton. 21 

Throughout the vital planning months 
of February and March, interest centered 
on the three men most directly concerned 
with Ordnance in the invasion — Colonel 
Medaris, Colonel Maxwell of Ninth Air 
Force, and Colonel Dillon of Southern Base 
Section, where the U.S. troops were to 
stage before embarking. The heaviest bur- 
den fell on Medaris. He had three very 
important jobs: to equip First Army's 
troops; to train its Ordnance units; and to 
make detailed plans for the invasion. By 
10 February, when he joined the Neptune 
Planning Group in London to plan for 
Ordnance in the invasion, the equipping 
and training programs were well in hand. 

Working closely with the Cheltenham 
Ordnance staff, he had established the 
methods by which First Army troops were 
to receive their T/E equipment from SOS 
depots and had made recommendations on 
the extra weapons and vehicles and on 
special equipment such as beach packs that 
would be required. He had furnished SOS 
with spare parts data based on experience 
in the Mediterranean, relating for example, 
gun tubes and artillery parts to rounds of 
ammunition and vehicle assemblies to ex- 
pected miles of operation. 22 

He had also done some hard thinking on 
ammunition supply. On his recommenda- 
tion, a board of officers composed largely of 
tactical commanders established basic loads 
for all ground force units; his estimates 



21 ( 1 ) 1 2 th Army Group Report of Operations 
(Final After Action Report), vol. XII, pp. 119- 
20. (2) Hq ETOUSA Command and Staff Conf, 
7 Mar 44, Admin 456, Staff Conference Notes. 
(3) Minutes, Meetings of Ordnance Officers, 21 
Apr, 19 May 44, 12th Army Group 337 Adminis- 
trative Meetings. 

22 First Army Rpt I, Annex 13, pp. 95-97. 



228 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



were used by the theater in determining the 
theater level of ammunition supply and in 
preparing a new unit of fire. He realized 
the futility of some of these efforts, for he 
was aware that ammunition supply was, 
after all, a tactical problem rather than a 
problem of supply. 23 General Patton, 
speaking before General Lee's staff confer- 
ence at Cheltenham on 31 January 1944, 
pointed out that some days the Army did 
not fight, "some days you fight a good deal 
and some days part of the Army fights and 
others all of the Army fights." Units of fire, 
said Patton, applying a quotation from 
Bernard Shaw on policy, were "designed by 
knaves to make a trap for fools." 24 

Medaris had made preparations for 
training his First Army Ordnance units. 
On 15 February 1944 his office published 
a Standing Operating Procedure for Com- 
bat, issued well in advance of the landings 
so that the men might become familiar with 
it. A copy went to every unit commander 
in First Army. 25 Ordnance battalions 
destined to land in Normandy with the 
Engineer special brigades were trained at 
ETOUSA's Assault Training Center on the 
Devon coast. When Medaris' army depot 
and ammunition companies arrived in Eng- 
land, he trained them in SOS depots until 
army depots and ammunition supply points 
could be established. He put his heavy 
maintenance companies to work modify- 
ing tanks and other equipment on which 
changes had to be made and gave them 
special mass-production jobs to be per- 



23 (1) Ibid., pp. 64-65. (2) Col. J. B. Medaris, 
"Field Service in the First Army," Army Ordnance, 
XXVIII (January-February 1945), p. 66. 

" ComZ Staff Confs 3 Jan-25 Jun 44. 

""' Ltr, First Army Commander to All Unit Com- 
manders, United States Army, sub: Ordnance Stand- 
ard Operating Procedure for Combat, 21 Feb 44, 
and Incl, OHF. 



formed in an almost impossibly short time. 
One was the installation of Quad 50 ma- 
chine guns (four heavy .50-caliber machine 
guns mounted on the M45 turret, usually 
carried on a wheeled trailer) on 321 surplus 
half-tracks — an Ordnance field modifica- 
tion, unrecognized and unauthorized, which 
antiaircraft units and even assault troops 
were to find surprisingly valuable in Europe. 
Another job of this kind was armor-plating 
the floors of 510 armored cars. To selected 
mechanics, intensive training was given in 
antiaircraft, tank gyrostabilizer and DUKW 
maintenance. After several amphibian ex- 
ercises early in the year demonstrated the 
need for more training on DUKW's, Ord- 
nance SOS headquarters set up a school at 
Breandown, on the south side of Bristol 
Channel. 26 

The theater Ordnance staff was in a 
position to help considerably in the impor- 
tant problem of waterproofing. In April 
1943 Sayler had established an Ordnance 
Experimental Station ( 0-6 1 7 ) on the north 
Devon coast at Bideford, the "little white 
town" where Kingsley had written West- 
ward Ho!; at a neighboring seaside resort 
called Westward Ho ! the British had been 
working on the problem since 1942. The 
Ordnance station under the command of 
Lt. Col. Ray C. Conner, an officer who had 
had considerable experience in the Medi- 
terranean, tested and improved materials 
and prepared instruction manuals. Begin- 



20 ( 1 ) Hq ETOUSA Ord Sec, Notes on Con- 
ference to Develop Ordnance Plans for Mounting 
Cross-Channel Operations, 6 Feb 44, ETO Ord 
Sec O.S. 334 Meetings & Conferences General, 
KCRC. (2) ComZ Staff Confs, 3 Jan-25 Jun 44, 
notes for 7 Feb, 3, 30 Apr 44. (3) First Army 
Rpt I, Annex 13, p. 91. (4) Ltr, Maj Gen J. B. 
Medaris (USA Ret) to Brig Gen Hal C. Pattison, 28 
Oct 63, OCMH. (5) Report of Ordnance Projects 
1 Jan 1944 to 1 Jun 1944, Ordnance Reports 
First Army Misc, Jun-Aug 44, OHF. 



ARMING FOR THE GRAND CAMPAIGN 




Testing Waterproofed %-ton Truck, England 



ning in December 1943, the station trained 
Ordnance troops to instruct the individual 
drivers, who were to do the actual water- 
proofing on their own vehicles. By May 
1944 the school had trained more than a 
thousand First Army officers and men. 27 

A new contribution to amphibious war- 
fare that was attracting a good deal of at- 



27 (1) Ltr, Sayler to OCO, 4 Nov 44, sub: 
Report of Waterproofing Activities ... 15 March 
1943 to 15 July 1944, O.O. 35°-°5/i5/43- (2) 
Presentation by Col Holmes, 21 May 44, ComZ 
Staff Confs 3 Jan-25 Jun 44. (3) Ord Serv ETO, 
Ord Tech Services, Sec VI, Annexes 1 — 1 3. (4) 
Report, Maj William E. Renner, Ordnance in ETO- 
USA Jun 45 (hereafter cited as Renner Rpt), pp. 
8-1 1, OHF. 



tention in these busy months of preparation 
was the DD (duplex-drive) swimming 
tank. The British had developed a canvas 
float, or water wing, that would enable a 
tank to leave its LCT, swim to the beach, 
and go in firing. It was one of several new 
devices tested by Maj. Gen. Sir P. Hobart 
of the British Army and his 79th Armoured 
Division at their research center on the 
coast of Suffolk. The British called these 
contraptions "Hobo's funnies." Some had 
been designed to make a tank more effec- 
tive against infantry, others to aid the as- 
sault Engineer units in detonating mines 
and removing other obstacles. The Croco- 
dile tank carried a flame thrower; the 



230 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



; * 



» 




-* ,^^* 



Testk 



Amphibious Tank 



CDL (Canal Defense Light, a name given 
to mislead the enemy), a powerful 
searchlight to illuminate the battlefield and 
blind enemy troops; the Crab, a revolving 
flail for exploding mines; the Bulldozer, a 
blade that could dig up mines and do many 
other useful jobs. Not all were British in- 
ventions; some were American or American 
adaptions of British devices. 28 

28 ( i ) Maj. Gen. Sir Francis de Guingand, Oper- 
ation Victory (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 
Ltd., 1947), pp. 352-53. (2) Liddell Hart, The 
Tanks, II. 321-28. (3) Bradley, A Soldier's Story, 
pp. 255-56. (4) For use of the bulldozer tank, or 
tankdozer at Anzio, see above, p. 198. ^3) The 
Japanese had used tanks with searchlights in their 
attack on Milne Bay in New Guinea in late August 
1942. Milner, Victory in Papua, p. 83. 



These and other new developments, such 
as the Snake — lengths of pipe filled with 
explosives for the demolition of mines, 
wire, and other obstacles — were studied by 
a First Army board, of which Colonel 
Medaris was senior member, established to 
consider the adoption of specialized equip- 
ment. The board also studied an interest- 
ing little vehicle, the Weasel, or M29 light 
cargo carrier, a small tracked carrier that 
had been developed in 1942 to carry sup- 
plies over snow during possible operations 
in Norway. Little was known about it in 
England, but the fact that it was said to 
operate successfully in mud and swamps as 
well as snow indicated that it might be 



ARMING FOR THE GRAND CAMPAIGN 



231 



useful in the invasion, especially on the 
swampy Cotentin coast. 29 

Bomb Disposal 

One highly secret subject that demanded 
a good deal of attention in plans for the 
invasion was bomb disposal. Within the 
United Kingdom agencies such as the 
Royal Engineers, Royal Navy, and Royal 
Air Force had the responsibility for 
neutralizing unexploded bombs (UXB's), 
but when the armies moved to the Con- 
tinent, the task in the U.S. communications 
and combat zones would fall on U.S. Ord- 
nance. 

It was a particularly troublesome prob- 
lem because at the beginning nobody had 
realized all of its ramifications. After the 
1 94 1 London blitz, the Ordnance Depart- 
ment had set up a bomb disposal school at 
Aberdeen Proving Ground, under the di- 
rectorship of Col. Thomas J. Kane, to train 
men to destroy enemy bombs that might fall 
on the United States. In July 1943 a bomb 
disposal company got into action in the 
Mediterranean, in Sicily with Seventh 
Army. For Torch there had been avail- 
able in ETOUSA only a few Engineers, 
hastily trained. After Torch some train- 
ing had been possible in England, with the 
help of the British, directed by Col. Philip 
Schwartz, Ordnance officer of the Eighth 
Air Force, who supplied some bomb dis- 



29 (i)Ltr, Medaris to CG First U.S. Army, 2 
Feb 44, sub: Adoption of Specialized Equipment 
for Use Within First Army, and Incls, 12th Army 
Group, 337 Conferences. (2) On the development 
of the Weasel and its use in Italy, see National 
Defense Research Committee, Transportation 
Equipment and Related Problems (Summary Tech- 
nical Report of Division 12, NDRC, vol. I) 
(Washington, 1946), pp. 141-43, 115; also, Clark, 
Calculated Risk, p. 417. 



posal men to the Twelfth Air Force in 
North Africa. 30 

General Sayler had early foreseen the 
importance of the UXB work and by May 
1943 had on his staff a bomb disposal of- 
ficer, transferred from Eighth Air Force, to 
plan for ground and service forces as well as 
air forces. As reports came in from the 
Mediterranean, it became clear that the 
bomb disposal men would have to deal with 
bombs that had been dropped by Allied 
aircraft as well as those dropped by the 
enemy, and with artillery duds, booby 
traps, captured enemy ammunition, and 
other hazardous materiel. Also, experi- 
ence showed the value of teaching all troops 
to recognize and report the hazards when 
they saw them— a subject called bomb 
reconnaissance. A school for this purpose 
was set up at Bristol under the operation of 
V Corps, with a miniature village, a mu- 
seum of objects dropped from the air, and 
instructors from the Royal Engineers school 
at Rippon. When the first bomb disposal 
company sent to England, the 234th, 
arrived in the fall of 1943 it was given the 
responsibility for all training in bomb 
reconnaissance. 31 

Colonel Kane arrived in England to be- 



30 ( 1 ) Ltr, Kane to Statistical and Historical 
Section, P&R Division, Nov 44, sub: History of 
the Bomb Disposal Organization in the European 
Theater of Operations (hereafter cited as Bomb 
Disposal History) Ord Serv ETO, Ord Tech Serv- 
ices, Sec V, Annex 8. (2) Rpt Seventh Army, p. 
K-6. (3) Ltr, Schwartz to CG Eighth Air Force, 
19 Dec 42, sub: Review of Accomplishments of 
Ordnance Section, O.O. 350.05/2221-2300 1943. 

31 (1) Bomb Disposal History. (2) History Ord 
Service MTO, vol. II, ch. VII, p. 323. (3) Ltr, 
Chief Ord Officer to Commandant, Bomb Disposal 
Hq, Aberdeen, 1 Oct 43; sub: Bomb Reconnaissance 
Training in the United Kingdom, Ord Serv ETO, 
Ord Tech Services, Annex 16. (4) Ltr, Col Kane to 
Maj Martin L. Ehrmann, 20 Jun 44, no sub, Ord 
Serv ETO, Ord Tech Services, sec. V, Annex 13. 



232 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



come Sayler's bomb disposal officer in 
March 1944, bringing with him eleven of- 
ficers from the Aberdeen school. Some of 
them were assigned to base sections and 
armies, some to Sayler's Bomb Disposal 
Division. This division issued an informa- 
tion bulletin, called Fuze News, and did a 
great deal of liaison on equipment with 
the Royal Navy, Royal Engineers, and 
Royal Air Force. Though the British had 
been in the business nearly five years, they 
adopted several American tools and pro- 
cedures. The most striking difference be- 
tween U.S. and British equipment was in 
weight: the British weighed nearly two 
tons, the American only 200 pounds. The 
supply of the equipment to the users was 
managed almost singlehanded by Capt. 
Schuyler V. C. Larkin of the Bomb Dis- 
posal Division. 32 

Colonel Kane's greatest problem was the 
organization of the men who were to do 
the dangerous job on the Continent. The 
War Department was sending them to the 
theater in squads of one officer and six 
enlisted men, instead of in companies. 
This decision was the result of observers' 
reports on the Sicily Campaign that the 
bomb disposal company wasted manpow- 
er. After arrival in England, the squads 
were given on-the-job training by the Brit- 
ish; but, in Kane's opinion, the War De- 
partment had not made adequate provision 
for the administration and housekeeping 
of these units, which he thought were likely 
to be "kicked about as a step-child" by 
units to which they were assigned or at- 
tached. He recommended that the 234th 



Bomb Disposal Company, broken down 
into platoons, be utilized for administra- 
tion. As time for the invasion drew near, 
Colonel Medaris suggested earlier phasing 
of the bomb disposal company to the Con- 
tinent, in order to support the squads.™ 

The Ordnance Plan for Neptune 

On D-day the Americans were to land 
in Normandy on two beaches divided by 
the Carentan estuary. The beach on the 
right, going in, was called Utah. The 
force landing here, VII Corps under Maj. 
Gen. J. Lawton Collins, had First Army's 
first mission, to advance up the Cotentin 
peninsula and capture the port of Cher- 
bourg. Collins was to land with the 4th 
Division; two airborne divisions, the 82 d 
and 101st, were to be dropped inland; 
and in the week following D-day, two 
more infantry divisions, the 90th and the 
9th, were to land on Utah. The beach 
on the left, called Omaha, adjoined the 
British beaches. Here the V Corps, com- 
manded by Maj. Gen. Leonard T. Gerow, 
with the 1st Division and an attached reg- 
iment of the 29th Division on D-day and 
the 2d and 2d Armored to follow in a few 
days, was to advance south to Caumont 
and hold while VII Corps captured Cher- 
bourg and the British held the German 
forces near Caen. Then V Corps, assisted 
after D plus 6 by XIX Corps with the 
28th and 30th Infantry Divisions and the 
3d Armored, would be joined by VII 



32 ( 1 ) Ltr, Kane to Ehrmann, 20 Jun 44. (2) 
Bomb Disposal History. (3) Ltr, Sayler to Camp- 
bell, 5 Jun 44, sub: Report on ETO Ordnance 
Activities, O.O. 350.05/12435. 



33 ( 1 ) Kane to Ehrmann, 20 Jun 44. (2) Bomb 
Disposal History. (3) Min, Conf of Ordnance Of- 
ficers held 21 Apr 44, Office Chief Ord Officer, 
ETO, 1 2th Army Group 337 Administrative Meet- 
ings. (4) For the recommendation on the bomb 
disposal company following the Sicily Campaign, 
see above, p. 171. 



ARMING FOR THE GRAND CAMPAIGN 



233 



Corps after the capture of Cherbourg. First 
Army with three corps abreast would, in 
General Bradley's words, "pivot on the 
British position like a windlass in the direc- 
tion of Paris," advancing first to the south 
to isolate the Brittany peninsula, then east 
to the Seine. 31 

Colonel Medaris planned to place the 
greatest weight of Ordnance manpower 
— nine battalions — on Omaha Beach to 
support the main Army effort to the south. 
He intended this group to be, eventually, 
the forward support organization in the 
march across France. Utah was to re- 
ceive an Ordnance group of five battal- 
ions. Later the Utah group, transfer- 
ring its forward support battalions to the 
Omaha group in exchange for rear sup- 
port battalions, would become responsible 
for all Ordnance service in army rear. 

Except for Omaha's main army rear 
depot and heavy shop battalions, the or- 
ganization of the two groups was at the 
outset roughly the same: an ammunition 
battalion, the first to be landed; a forward 
third echelon maintenance and battlefield 
clearance battalion for each corps; an 
army support battalion to back up each 
forward battalion with fourth echelon 
maintenance, a field depot, a collecting 
point, and evacuation facilities; and an 
army intermediate battalion to back up 
the support battalions, repair army trucks, 
evacuate damaged materiel to rear shops, 
and handle bomb disposal in the Army 
area. The fourteen battalions in these 
two groups were all to be ashore by D plus 
15, and were carefully phased to provide 
Ordnance support within three days after 
the arrival of the tactical units. The for- 




Colonel Medaris 

ward battalions had definite assignments 
to support certain corps; the medium 
maintenance companies of these forward 
battalions had assignments to support spe- 
cified divisions. 35 

Remembering the confusion that had 
existed on the beaches in Sicily, Medaris 
planned to place a considerable amount 
of Ordnance support behind the men who 
had the task of getting the troops and sup- 
plies ashore. Behind each of the three 
engineer special brigades (one to handle 
Utah, two for Omaha) he placed a bat- 
talion consisting of an ammunition com- 
pany, a medium automotive maintenance 
company especially trained on DUKW's 
and LVT's (landing vehicles, tank), and 
a bomb disposal squad. This insured 



34 ( 1 ) Bradley, A Soldier's Story, pp. 239-41 
(2) Harrison, Cross-Channel Attack, pp. 180-88 



35 First Army, Opn Neptune, Annex 8, Ordnance 
Plan, 25 Feb 44 (hereafter cited as Ordnance Nep- 
tune Plan). (2) First Army Rpt, I, Annex 13, pp. 
56-60. 



234 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



enough Ordnance men to repair vehicles 
on the spot or dig them out of the sand 
and drag them to collecting points; to 
handle ammunition over the beaches and 
place it in inshore dumps; and to assist 
Medaris' staff in identifying and loading 
Class II supplies. 36 

Medaris was determined that the com- 
bat forces would not be starved for Ord- 
nance supplies in the crucial early days of 
the invasion. Very early in his planning, 
while the experience in Sicily was still fresh 
in his mind, he provided that Ordnance 
units going into the forward areas would 
carry with them as many supplies as they 
could. In Neptune they would even 
drive or tow ashore the vehicles and 
wheeled guns that would be needed as re- 
placements, and the reserve vehicles would 
be packed with spare parts and other Class 
II supplies. In this way enough could be 
carried in to last fifteen days. The ar- 
rangement economized on lift; more im- 
portant, it kept vital items in Ordnance 
hands. One obstacle stood in the way of 
the plan: there were more replacement 
vehicles than there were Ordnance men to 
drive them. Medaris overcame it charac- 
teristically. Realizing that the First Army 
G-i, Col. Joseph J. O'Hare, had the 
problem of providing transportation for 
the men who were going to France as re- 
placements, Medaris borrowed the replace- 
ment men to drive the replacement ve- 
hicles, first putting them through a pro- 
gram of driver training. The planning 
for Class V was more difficult. Because 
of the limited capacity of the beaches there 
were arbitrary tonnage limitations that did 
not provide much insurance against ab- 



normal losses. Assault divisions were au- 
thorized to carry quantities in excess of 
their basic loads if they had the transporta- 
tion; and to this problem DUKW's pro- 
vided the answer. 37 

In planning the operation of Ordnance 
service in Neptune Medaris was able to 
profit from two important lessons he had 
learned in North Africa. One was the 
need for collecting companies to bring 
back damaged materiel from the battle- 
field. He had had to improvise such a 
company in Tunisia but now had four 
evacuation companies (TOE 9-187) that 
could be converted into collecting com- 
panies by adding more trucks, wreckers, 
and tank recovery vehicles and subtracting 
tank transporters. In the process he gained 
manpower, for the evacuation company 
had fifty-eight more enlisted men and one 
more officer than the collecting company 
required. He used the men thus gained 
to put into effect the second important les- 
son — the need for a radio net between 
Ordnance units in the field. The men 
were sent to Signal Corps schools and the 
network was set up in the United King- 
dom before D-day. 38 

Toward the end of the planning period 
Medaris relieved all nondivisional Ord- 
nance troops except bomb disposal squads 
from attachment to corps. While author- 
izing each corps Ordnance officer to com- 
municate directly with the commander of 
the battalion supporting his corps and the 



Ordnance Neptune Plan. 



37 ( 1 ) Minutes, Ord Conference, 15 Nov 43, 
ETO Ord Sec O.S. 381 Plans, KCRC. (2) Ord- 
nance Neptune Plan. (3) Colonel O'Hare agreed 
to lend his replacement men very reluctantly, be- 
cause he was afraid he would not get them back. 
Actually, every one of them was returned to him in 
Normandy. Interv, Maj Gen Floyd A. Hansen, 
15 Sep 60. 

38 First Army Rpt I, Annex 13, pp. 84-86. 



ARMING FOR THE GRAND CAMPAIGN 



235 



commander of the corps ammunition sup- 
ply points, and delegating to the battalion 
commander authority to locate his ele- 
ments in accordance with the direction of 
the corps Ordnance officer, Medaris kept 
in his own hands the control of his Ord- 
nance men. 39 

Colonel Medaris was convinced that it 
was an "absolute necessity" for him to 
have direct command of First Army Ord- 
nance troops, believing strongly that sub- 
sidiary control exercised through staff chan- 
nels would cause delays that might be disas- 
trous. But he was faced with the same 
problem Niblo had had. First Army head- 
quarters, like that of Fifth Army, was still 
organized under the T/O 200-1 of 1 
July 1942, with an Ordnance Section 
that was woefully inadequate. How was 
Medaris to exercise command without a 
headquarters competent to issue orders? 
He thought the T/O 9-200-1 for an 
Army Ordnance Command, Headquarters 
and Headquarters Company, proposed in 
November 1942 by Col. Robert W. Dan- 
iels, AGF Ordnance officer, which pro- 
vided 19 officers, 2 warrant officers, and 
80 enlisted men, would serve his purpose, 
if 6 enlisted men to operate a switchboard 
and wire net were added. As yet T/O 
9-200-1 had not been published — held 
up, visitors from Washington told him, 
until the complete T/O for army head- 
quarters was approved and published. 

Pending final approval, Medaris asked 
First Army for authority to reorganize his 
Ordnance Section under T/O 9-200-1 
provisionally. He was refused and had to 



be content with a slight increase in staff. 
Starting with 1 8 officers, 1 warrant officer, 
and 33 enlisted men, he gained 3 officers 
and 12 enlisted men in April 1944, follow- 
ing the revision of T/O 200-1 in December 
1943. The antiquated table of organiza- 
tion was not the only handicap. There 
was also the difficulty of obtaining officers 
who were qualified to tackle the com- 
plicated problems posed by Overlord. 
For that reason the First Army Ordnance 
office was not completely organized until 
after D-day. 40 

On 18 March 1944 General Bradley 
gave his special staff officers "operational 
control" of their troops, a concept bor- 
rowed from the British. He delegated to 
them certain specific functions: transfer of 
men between units, except in unusual 
cases; movement of troops within the army 
zone; issuance of normal operating orders 
and training directives; reallocation of sup- 
plies; and recommendations on such mat- 
ters as efficiency reports, promotions, and 
reclassifications. Colonel Medaris did not 
consider that this arrangement gave him 
actual command — "the complete com- 
mand set up" that Niblo had in Fifth 
Army— but it did eventually give him com- 
plete freedom of action with respect to his 
troops, and wide latitude for operation in 
the technical channel, mainly because he 
had a good working relationship with his 
two commanders, first Bradley and then 



39 Ltr, Medaris to Ord Officers, V, VII, XIX 
Corps, 6 Apr 44, sub: Army Ordnance Battalions 
in Support of Corps, app. 6 to USFET Bd Rpt 
101. 



40 ( 1 ) Ltr, Medaris to Daniels, 8 Nov 43, ETO 
Ord Sec 320.3 Organization of British Army, 
KCRC. (2) Ltr, Medaris to CofS First Army, 23 
Oct 43, sub: Command of Ordnance Units As- 
signed or Attached to Army, ETO Ord Sec 320.1 
Organization of Ordnance Department, KCRC. 
(3) Ltr, Connerat to Ord Officer AGF, 9 Nov 45, 
sub: Ordnance Organization Within Army Head- 
quarters, Incl 1, 1st Ind, Folder, Organization of 
Army Ordnance, AGF Ord Off Files. 



236 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Lt. Gen. Courtney H. Hodges, who com- 
manded First Army after General Bradley 
left in August to take command of 12th 
Army Group. Medaris learned early in 
the campaign that the confidence of his 
commander was his greatest asset. 41 

The policy of operational control was 
adopted in all the armies in the European 
campaign — Third, Seventh, Ninth, and 
Fifteenth as well as First. Still, none of 
the army Ordnance officers had the com- 
plete command that Niblo exercised. The 
effectiveness of operational control varied 
according to the men and their com- 
manders. Colonel Nixon, Patton's Ord- 
nance officer in Third Army, considered 
that it amounted to actual command. At 
the other extreme, there was "the Ord- 
nance Officer who cannot breathe without 
G— 4 approval, who does not receive a 
single document without its coming in and 
out through G— 4 and who cannot issue a 
single instruction unless over the signature 
of the AG . . . ," as Medaris noted in 
November 1944. He felt that such com- 
partmentation led to decisions by men un- 
qualified to make them, for the average 
G-4 had no Ordnance training; also it 
hampered the army Ordnance officer in 
his dealings with Ordnance officers at 
corps and division level. Medaris con- 
tinued to believe that the Ordnance officer 
of an army ought to be given by T/O a 
command organization that was so de- 
finitely intended for the purpose that his 
army commander would have to conform. 
With this contention General Campbell, 



Chief of Ordnance, was in "complete 
agreement." 42 

Yet the question of a command organ- 
ization for the army Ordnance officer was 
not answered during the war or even in 
the postwar period. Though the Ord- 
nance section of the USFET Board fa- 
vored such an organization and recom- 
mended that it take the form of a brigade 
headquarters and headquarters company, 
nothing was done. Tactical commanders 
generally opposed it, including Medaris' 
own commanders. General Sayler felt that 
it would never come about and that the 
only practical solution was for the Ord- 
nance officer to work through his com- 
manding general. Brig. Gen. Harold A. 
Nisley, Ordnance officer of the 12th Army 
Group, agreed. Nisley came to believe 
that if the Ordnance officer of a major 
field force "sold himself and Ordnance 
service properly to his own Headquarters" 
and if the Ordnance officers at lower 
echelons were properly indoctrinated with 
the idea of liaison and co-operation with 
the Ordnance officer at the higher level, 
most of the problems would be solved. 43 

"The Best Equipped Fighting Force" 

Though Medaris lacked Niblo's com- 
mand organization, he had the advantage 
of First Army's prestige as the spearhead 
of a campaign on which everything hinged. 
He had based his plan for Neptune 



41 ( 1 ) First Army History I, pp. 16-17; (2) 
Ltr, Medaris to Campbell, 8 Nov 44, Folder, Meda- 
ris Report to General Campbell, OHF. (3) Meda- 
ris, "Field Service in the First Army," Army Ord- 
nance, XXVIII fJan-Feb 45), p. 67. 



42 (1) USFET Bd Rpt 101, app. 5, P- 2. (2) 
Ltr, Medaris to Campbell, 8 Nov 44. (3) Camp- 
bell Comments. 

43 (1) USFET Bd Rpt 101, p. 28. (2) For 
Niblo's advocacy of the brigade, see above, p. 189. 

(3) Interv, Maj Gen Henry B. Sayler, 19 Mar 58. 

(4) Personal Ltr, Col Harold A. Nisley to Brig Gen 
J. H. Hinrichs, 15 Jul 52, in File, Rpt of Frank 
Panel, OHF. 



ARMING FOR THE GRAND CAMPAIGN 



237 



on the assumption that the men he needed 
to operate Ordnance service would be 
furnished him; and they were, even though 
there was a general shortage of Ordnance 
troops, not only in the theater but in the 
United States. It was done by taking 
units from SOS and even Third Army, 
which would not become operational on 
the Continent until August and therefore 
had a longer time for build-up. 44 

The theater made strenuous efforts to 
bring Medaris' two group headquarters 
from the United States in time. The group 
headquarters designed to administer bat- 
talions in support of field forces — the or- 
ganization that Niblo had fought for so 
long — did not have a table of organization 
(TOE 9-12) until 15 April 1944. Two 
group headquarters were available in the 
United States, the 51st and the 52d. After 
urgent cables from General Eisenhower, 
who even suggested shipment by unescorted 
ship, the 52 d was scheduled to arrive before 
the end of April; but the 51st could not 
possibly arrive until late May, too late for 
Neptune. As a substitute for the 51st, 
Medaris was given the 224th Base Group 
Headquarters (T/O 9-312), which had 
been assigned to FECOMZ. 45 

In the matter of supplies, the theater 
went to great lengths to equip First Army. 
An important supply mission that included 



44 ( 1 ) Minutes, Conf of Ordnance Officers APO 
887, 28 Mar, 21 Apr, 19 May 44, 12th Army 
Group 337 Administrative Meetings. (2) 12th 
Army Group (FUSAG) Daily Journal, Ordnance 
Section, Mar-Jul 44 

45 (1) Msgs, Eisenhower to AGWAR, 3 Apr, 14 
Apr 44. (2) Msgs, Marshall to Eisenhower, 12 
Apr, 16 Apr 44. (3) Ltr, Eisenhower to FUSAG, 
FUSA, FECOMZ, and ADSEC, 20 May 44, sub: 
Ordnance Troop Requirements and Assignments, 
Incl 1. All in i2*h Army Group 322 Ordnance 
Units. (4) Min, Conf of Ordnance Officers, APO 
887, 21 Apr 44. 



the theater chiefs of all technical services 
was sent to the United States in March. 
As a member of this mission, Sayler 
speeded action on the advance shipment 
of T/E equipment and depot stocks, 
and the dispatch to the theater of 
ammunition (principally for artillery), 
PROCO projects, and such special non- 
status items as tool sets. He urged that 
some of the ships scheduled to carry sup- 
plies direct from the United States to the 
Continent (the floating depots devised to 
solve the problem of port congestion in the 
United Kingdom) be loaded by commod- 
ity or "type," and he obtained approval 
for loading 30 ships solely with trucks and 
1 1 with ammunition. This would enable 
him as Ordnance officer of the Communi- 
cations Zone to call forward specific cargoes 
quickly on demand of the using arms. 46 
The European theater gained an immense 
advantage when it convinced Army Service 
Forces and the New York Port of Em- 
barkation that it had a good stock control 
system. As a result, in Europe the Ord- 
nance supply officers had far less trouble 
with the editing of requisitions than had 
those in the Mediterranean. 47 

The ETOUSA supply men paid tribute 
to the "magnificent job" done by Army 
Service Forces and New York Port of Em- 
barkation in meeting their demands. 48 In 
the United States a close check was kept 



49 ( 1 ) Ltr, Brig Gen Royal B. Lord to Gen 
Somervell, 1 Apr 44, sub: Rpt on ETOUSA Sup- 
ply Mission to United States, Incl 8. (2) Digests 
of Teletype Confs, 29 Apr, 1 May 44. Both in 
ASF Planning Div, Theater Br. (3) Ord Serv ETO, 
Class II & IV Supply, pp. 88, 526, and Annex 1. 

47 (1) Sayler Interv. (2) Lt. Gen. Leroy Lutes, 
"Supply: World War II," Part II, Antiaircraft 
Journal, vol. 96 (January-February 1953), P- 3- 

48 Daily Journal, ACofS G-4, 16 May 44, Admin 
475- 



238 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



on shortages and shipments were expedited 
if necessary. When word came from the 
theater that the DUKW's, which were 
wearing out from use in training and am- 
phibious exercises, would need more parts 
than had been anticipated, ASF shipped 
six tons of critical parts by air. The War 
Department released additional quantities 
of ammunition. As D-day drew near, 
very few shortages existed either in spare 
parts or ammunition, and those were 
caused by shortages in the United States. 
Special arrangements were made for ship- 
ping scarce types, such as 8i-mm. mortar 
ammunition, as soon as they became avail- 
able. Missions from ASF, NYPE, and the 
technical services were sent to England 
throughout the spring to check on supplies 
and demonstrate new types of equipment. 
Experts came over to help solve special 
problems. Late in March 1944, when 21 
Army Group became concerned about the 
difficulty of segregating 105-mm. howitzer 
ammunition by lots, Ordnance sent Col. 
Leslie E. Simon, director of the Ballistic 
Research Laboratory, to the theater to con- 
duct test firings, and the data he obtained 
was used successfully to classify the ammu- 
nition. 

Certain Ordnance items, chiefly vehicles, 
that could not be sent in time from the 
United States were obtained, one way or 
another, in England. First Army got tank 
transporters from the British and 2 /2-ton 
trucks from the Red Cross and even from 
SHAEF headquarters, swapping 1 / 2 -ton 
trucks for them. For other items that 
were not available anywhere, such as 10- 
ton ammunition trailers, there were substi- 
tutes that would do. Perhaps the most 
serious shortage was in Ordnance shop 
trucks, which were in demand not only for 



their original purpose but, as in the Medi- 
terranean, for mobile command posts. 
Some were obtained by robbing Third 
Army and the Field Force Replacement 
Service. With these, the Ordnance men 
trusted that they could get by for the first 
thirty days after the invasion, when more 
shop trucks were expected from the United 
States. 49 

Toward the end of the cold, uncomfort- 
able English spring of 1944, the troops 
moved into their marshaling camps in 
southern England. Taking stock, the men 
at headquarters began to feel repaid for the 
months of hard work and worry. The 
chief of operations of ASF, General Lutes, 
came to England to make an exhaustive 
last-minute survey of the plans and prepa- 
rations; he assured General Eisenhower 
that the invasion could be supported. 
General Sayler reported to General Camp- 
bell that First Army was "probably the 
best equipped fighting force in the history 
of warfare." Medaris and the combat 
commanders seemed satisfied. 50 Indeed, at 
the last high-level conference at General 
Montgomery's headquarters three weeks 
before D-day, attended by King George 
VI himself, Prime Minister Churchill was 
somewhat alarmed by "the amount of 
paraphernalia." He was reminded of 



49 ( 1 ) Memo, CG ASF for Maj Gen John E. Hull, 
29 Apr 44, sub: Supply Situation for the European 
Theater of Operations, ASF Planning Div, Theater 
Br. (2) Ltr, Holmes to Campbell, 5 Jun 44. (3) 
Daily Journal ACofS G-4, Mar-May 44. (4) Hq 
ComZ Staff Conference Notes 1944, 10 Apr 44-21 
May 44. (5) 1 2th Army Group (FUSAG) Daily 
Journal, Ordnance Section Mar-Jul 44. 

60 (1) Lutes, "Supply: World War II," Part II, 
Antiaircraft Journal, vol. 96 (January-February 
1953), p. 9. (2) Ltr, Sayler to Campbell, 12 Jun 
44, sub: Report on ETO Ordnance Activities, 
O.O. 350.05/12489. (3) Ltr, Holmes to Campbell, 
5 Jun 44- 



ARMING FOR THE GRAND CAMPAIGN 



239 



Admiral Cunningham's story of seeing 
dental chairs being landed at Algiers dur- 
ing Operation Torch. And remembering 
the swarm of vehicles on the Anzio beach- 
head, he even became concerned about 
what he called "an excess of motor-cars." 51 
The conference ended; the top com- 



manders began a round of visits to the 
troops waiting for D-day in the marshaling 
areas; and Churchill wrote in General 
Montgomery's "private book," "on the 
verge of the greatest adventure with which 
these pages have dealt, I record my confi- 
dence that all will be well. . . ." 52 



Churchill, Closing the Ring, pp. 615-16. 



62 Ibid., p. 616. 



CHAPTER XIV 



The Far Shore in Normandy 



Waiting their turn on D-day to make the 
1 1 -mile run from the transport area in the 
English Channel to Omaha Beach, the 
Ordnance ammunition team aboard LST 
376 looked over the side with mounting 
concern. The first waves of the invasion 
— the tank-laden LCT's (some carrying 
DD swimming tanks) and the infantry — 
had gone off on schedule in the darkness; 
but as day broke, a hazy, misty morning, 
the men saw that there was a nasty chop 
in the Channel with swells running high, 
and that the small craft circling around 
their LST were having trouble. 

A few minutes before H-hour (0630), 
Lt. James N. McPartland, the command- 
ing officer of the 56-man team, started for 
the shore to reconnoiter for an ammunition 
dump site, getting rides for himself, Sgt. 
Sam Godino, and Pvt. Albin E. Petrovich 
in DUKW's carrying 105-mm. howitzers. 
Their destination was Fox Green Beach, in 
the eastern sector of Omaha, but they did 
not get very far. Sergeant Godino's 
DUKW became waterlogged and had to 
be towed back to the LST by a Coast 
Guard cutter. It sank just as the last man 
jumped onto the deck ladder. A few 
minutes later another Coast Guard cutter 
brought in Private Petrovich, who had 
been hauled out of his foundering DUKW. 
The men saw no more of Lieutenant 
McPartland and presumed him lost, 
though actually he had been rescued and 



carried back to England. 

Shortly after the DUKW debacle the 
rest of the team headed for the shore in a 
Rhino ferry. This was a barge — made of 
ponton units and propelled by outboard 
motors — that was big enough to carry 2/2- 
ton trucks as well as men. Towed across 
the channel by the LST's, the Rhinos were 
another innovation of this invasion. Unlike 
the swimming tanks, of which only 5 of the 
32 destined for the eastern sector of 
Omaha survived the heavy sea, the Rhinos 
were virtually unsinkable, but they were 
unwieldy and slow. During the long, roll- 
ing voyage the ammunition men, who had 
a good chance of being the first Ordnance 
men ashore, had time to review what they 
had been told about the terrain and the 
job they were to do. 

Omaha Beach 

The part of the Normandy coast forever 
to be known as Omaha had a wide tidal 
flat with an embankment of coarse shingle. 
{Map 2) Beyond the shingle was a level 
shelf of sand with patches of marsh grass, 
then bluffs cut by four ravines forming exits 
to inland villages. Near Colleville, the 
village on the extreme east, to be located 
by its church steeple, the men on the Rhino 
were to set up a dump in support of the 
37th Engineer Combat Battalion. They 
were the first team of the 61 6th Ordnance 



THE FAR SHORE IN NORMANDY 



241 




OMAHA BEACH 

AND 

BEACH MAINTENANCE AREA 



Inundated area 

I 2 3 



MAP 2 



Ammunition Company. About two hours 
later they were to be joined by the third 
team, attached to the 348th Engineer Com- 
bat Battalion, which was to set up another 
dump in the neighborhood. The second 
team, which the rest of the company called 
the "home guard," was to come in next 
day to reinforce the two dumps. All were 
a part of the 251st Ordnance Battalion, 
assigned to the 5th Engineer Special Bri- 
gade, and for months had been training in 
England with the Engineers. The first and 
third teams had participated in the Fabius 
dress rehearsal in May. 

About 1300, nearly three hours behind 
schedule, the Rhino approached the shore. 
The men saw shell explosions and vehicles 
afire on the beach. The barge ahead of 
them was hit several times and burst into 
flames. One LCI ordered them back; 
another told them to go in. The men put 



on their pistol belts and packs, loudly curs- 
ing the heavy loads, while praying under 
their breaths. When they approached the 
shore a second time, they were again 
warned by an LCI with a loud-speaker to 
"Get the Hell away from the beach." 

"And so," as the historian of the com- 
pany recorded, 

our rhino continued to meander amongst 
the myriad number of LCT's, LCI's, LCVP's, 
destroyers and cruisers. All this time the 
harsh, dry cough of the large naval guns 
aboard nearby French cruisers boxed our 
ears and caused us to jump nervously. We 
saw the powder flash before we heard the 
blasts. We timed the interval between the 
smoke and the blast to kill time. We 
cheered the destroyers as they spewed their 
small shells directly into the face of the 
enemy, while their hulls almost scraped along 
the sandy bottom. We were chilled and wet 
from the cold drizzle, as we huddled together 
in those two and a half ton trucks for 



242 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




Rhino Ferry Discharging Men and Supplies on a Normandy Beach 



warmth and the confidence breeded by close 
proximity with others. 1 

German shells were dropping in the 
water around them. After dark the beach 
was lit up by the fire of the enemy's big 
guns and mortars. Toward midnight the 
ammunition men found themselves in the 
midst of some LST's that had come close 
to the shore to take off the wounded. 
The Rhino tied up alongside one of them 
for the night, just as the Luftwaffe came 
over and dropped a bomb whose flight the 
men could follow by its "eerie, fear-striking 
whistle" ; the bomb fell into the water. The 



1 History 616th Ord Ammunition Co, 19 Nov 
43-Jun, Oct-Nov 44. 



men from the Rhino scrambled up the 
landing net to the top deck of the LST, 
found some blankets, and fell asleep to the 
racket of the antiaircraft guns. So ended 
D-day for the first team of the 61 6th 
Ammunition Company. 

The third team got ashore on D-day. 
The men left the transport Dorothea L. 
Dix on LCVP's, which looked something 
like iron bathtubs. They were faster than 
the barges but less steady; most of those 
aboard were desperately seasick. The front 
ramps were lowered about 1330 into waist- 
deep water. Scuffling ashore, the Ord- 
nance troops saw dead and wounded men 
sprawled on the shingle, and found them- 
selves lying side by side with infantrymen 



THE FAR SHORE IN NORMANDY 



243 



of the i st Division's 26th Infantry. Shell 
fragments were hitting all around them, 
cutting trousers and lifting helmets from 
heads and bodies from the ground. The 
Ordnance men crawled behind a wrecked 
LCI and LCT, edged farther up the beach 
behind stalled half-tracks, and at last 
reached shelter at the base of the bluff, 
leaving three wounded men, one fatally, 
behind them on the rock-strewn sand. 
Meanwhile, another boatload of twelve 
ammunition men followed troops of the 
26th Infantry up the hill to the outskirts 
of Colleville, where they tried to set up an 
ammunition supply point, but they found 
things too hot for them and returned to 
the beach. All dug in for the night and 
tried to sleep through the falling flak and 
German bombs. Just before dawn a mes- 
senger told the men to prepare to advance 
to the front lines as replacements for in- 
fantry, but nothing came of this. 

The men on the luckless Rhino got 
ashore next day and were able to help the 
third team unload the first munition-laden 
LCT to come in. Working under mortar 
fire, they carried 155-mm. shells across the 
wide stretch of shingle and stacked them 
among the tarpaulin-covered dead. 2 

Before the day was over, the command- 
ing officer of the 61 6th located a 9-man 
party from 251st Ordnance Battalion head- 



2 (1) Ibid. (2) Ernest Hemingway, who was in 
one of the LCVP's that left the Dix, wrote a 
vivid account of the Fox Green Beach landings, 
"Voyage to Victory," Colliers, vol. 114, No. 4 
(July 22, 1944), pp. n-13, 56-57- (3) For the 
Omaha landings see Harrison, Cross-Channel At- 
tack, pp. 305-28. Unless otherwise indicated this 
chapter is based on Harriscn's volume and on 
Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, I. 
(4) Samuel Eliot Morison, "History of United 
States Naval Operations in World War II," The 
Invasion of France and Germany: ig44~ig45, 
pp. 110-54. 



quarters, which had landed on the wrong 
beach. These men had a harrowing story 
to tell. Capt. Harold G. Ordeman had 
landed in a DUKW at E-i Beach on D- 
day at 0830, when the beach was still 
under small arms fire as well as mortar and 
artillery fire. He had to pull four men 
from a burning craft and extinguish the 
flames from the clothing of a sailor who 
had been knocked unconscious by an ex- 
plosion. Maj. Karl H. Zornig came in at 
1230 but was wounded and had to be 
evacuated to England. The rest of the 
party, landing later in an LCT in the midst 
of an artillery barrage that effectively 
pinned the men down, spent the afternoon 
helping the wounded. Sometime during 
the day a few men of the 3466th Medium 
Automotive Maintenance Company got 
ashore in an LCVP, but the rest of the 
company and the bomb disposal squad 
were held offshore in the cumbersome 
Rhinos. 3 

In the western sector of Omaha, where 
the 74th Ordnance Battalion was assigned 
to the 6th Engineer Special Brigade, even 
fewer Ordnance men got ashore, but some 
of them could claim the distinction of being 
the first Ordnance men to land in Nor- 
mandy, since the first team of the 3565th 
Medium Automotive Maintenance Com- 
pany hit the beach forty-five minutes before 
H-hour. Later in the day a small party of 
two officers and sixteen men drawn from 
the 6 1 8th Ammunition Company and the 



3 ( 1 ) History 251st Ordnance Battalion, 11 Feb- 
Aug 44. (2) History 5th Engr Special Brigade, 
Opn Rpt Neptune, 6-26 Jun 44, p. 19. (3) 
Monograph, Capt Reynold A. Atlas, The Opera- 
tions of Ammunition Depots in Normandy from 
D-Day to the Battle of St. L6, 6 June-25 July 
1944, The Infantry School, 1946 (hereafter cited 
as Atlas Monograph), copy in OHF. 



244 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



27th Bomb Disposal Squad also landed in 
this sector. There was little they could do 
beyond helping the medics. When more 
ammunition men came in next day, the 
Engineers sent them to a point near Colle- 
ville to set up the first ammunition dump, 
with the help of ammunition men from the 
5th Engineer Special Brigade. The dump 
planned at Vierville could not be opened 
for several days, and when it was opened 
it was so near the front lines that rounds 
were taken from their boxes at the dump 
and carried by hand to the artillery bat- 
teries. 4 

The second team of the 3565th Automo- 
tive Company got ashore D plus 1. The 
men had been trained mainly on beach re- 
covery, and there was plenty of that type 
of work to do, for the beaches were strewn 
with flaming wrecks; but somehow in the 
confusion of the landing the company 
found itself counted as part of an infantry 
battalion. Marching inland with the in- 
fantrymen, the Ordnance men joined in 
the early mopping-up operations in the 
Vierville-Louvieres area and suffered heavy 
casualties. 5 

All along the 5-mile stretch of Omaha, 
the invasion had been costly. The trans- 
ports and LST's had been anchored too far 
offshore and in the strong current and high 
waves that followed the storm of 5 June, 
the small craft headed for the shore had 
been carried off course, so that hardly any 
units landed as planned. The Germans 



4 ( 1 ) History 6th Engr Special Brigade, 6 Jun- 
20 Jul 44. (2) 1 st Sgt. Bernard W. Steele, ETO, 
Letter to Editor, Firepower, vol. II, No. 1 (June- 
July 1945). (3) History iooth Ord Ammunition 
Bn, p. 28. (4) Ord Serv ETO, Ammunition Supply, 
Annex 41, OHF. 

c Col. W. R. Slaughter, "Ordnancemen Are Com- 
bat Troops," Firepower, vol. I, No. 5 (February- 
March 1945), p. 5. 



had good beach defenses, notably deadly 
underwater obstacles with mines attached, 
and they had a full infantry division whose 
presence had been missed by Allied intelli- 
gence. Nevertheless, the men on the 
beaches were pushing inland by the after- 
noon of D-day, climbing over the bluffs 
whenever they were stopped at the exits. 
Wave after wave of follow-up troops came 
in on succeeding days. 

Among them were the battalions that 
Colonel Medaris had planned for the sup- 
port of V Corps. Two companies of the 
iooth Ordnance Ammunition Battalion 
were ashore by early afternoon of 8 June, 
helping in the Engineer dumps until ASP 
501 (later Depot ioo) was set up a few days 
later at Formigny under the supervision of 
Colonel Ray, Medaris' ammunition officer, 
who had arrived at Omaha early on D- 
day. The first job was sorting, for the am- 
munition had been unloaded so hastily that 
any effort to land it from the ships in sepa- 
rated types had been wasted. Trucks and 
jeeps drove up with the ammunition still 
in landing nets; men with cranes had sim- 
ply picked up the nets, tossed them to the 
top of the pile, and pulled the nets from 
under. The result was a huge mass twenty 
feet high that included small arms ammu- 
nition, high explosives, blasting caps, chem- 
ical shells, and propellent charges. The 
Ordnance men set up a roller conveyor and 
began to dig their way through the pile. 
It was slow, dangerous work. 

Shortly after midnight on 1 1 June the 
headquarters of the 177th Ordnance Bat- 
talion, the First Army maintenance bat- 
talion attached to V Corps, was ashore at 



a (i) History iooth Ammunition Bn. (2) In- 
terv, Lt Edwin J. Best, 61 8th Ord Co, with Maj 
William E. Renner, in Renner Rpt. 



THE FAR SHORE IN NORMANDY 



245 



■*&$ * 




Ammunition Dump Behind Omaha Beach 



Dog Green Beach. When the command- 
ing officer was able to get in touch with 
the command posts of V Corps and First 
Army Ordnance, he learned that he had 
lost an entire medium automotive mainte- 
nance company, the 342 2d, and twenty- 
seven enlisted men of Detachment B of the 
526th Heavy Maintenance Company 
(Tank) when LST 1006 was sunk in the 
English Channel by a German torpedo in 
the early hours of 9 June. Eleven men 
and two officers of Detachment B had been 
rescued but were carried back to England, 
and all the company's equipment had gone 
down with the ship. Two medium main- 



tenance companies had come ashore safely, 
along with Detachment A of the 526th. 
In spite of its misfortunes, the 526th Heavy 
Maintenance Company "performed a 
heroic task in refitting, repairing, and keep- 
ing in operation badly needed tanks," ac- 
cording to a Bronze Star citation presented 
to its commanding officer, Capt. Francis 
F. Poppenburg. On the day after the 
arrival of the 177th Battalion headquarters, 
12 June, Colonel Medaris organized First 
Army Ordnance Service at Omaha. 7 



7 (i) History 177th Ord Bn 1944. (2) History 
526th Ord Heavy Maint Co (Tank) Jan-Dec 44. 
(3) History 72d Ord Group, 1944. 



UTAH BEACH 

AND 

BEACH MAINTENANCE AREA 

Inundated area 




MAP 3 



THE FAR SHORE IN NORMANDY 



247 



Utah Beach 

Compared to the bloody landings on 
Omaha Beach, the landings on Utah 
Beach, on the Cotentin peninsula northwest 
of the Carentan estuary, were easy. The 
beach itself, nine miles long, was easier to 
cross. (Map 3) There was a gentle slope 
of wet sand, then a few yards of dry sand, 
and behind that a low concrete wall against 
a belt of dunes partly covered with beach 
grass. Inland were flooded pasture lands 
for a mile or two, crossed by causeways 
leading from the beach; to secure these 
causeways, two airborne divisions, the 1 o 1 st 
and 82d, had been dropped beginning at 
o 1 1 5 on D-day. 

The sea was calmer at Utah than at 
Omaha, beach obstacles were fewer and 
less formidable, and although artillery shell- 
ing continued for some time from the 
heights at the northern and southern end of 
the beaches and some damage was suffered 
from the Luftwaffe, the assault forces en- 
countered nothing like the hail of enemy 
fire that had met the Omaha landings. 
The Germans sent their remote-controlled 
miniature tanks to blow up the boats as 
they beached, but the little Goliaths were 
no more successful here than they had been 
at Anzio. By nightfall on D-day, most of 
the assault units of the 4th Division had 
reached their first objective on the main 
highway between Carentan and Ste.-Mere- 
Eglise, and dumps were quickly established 
in the dune area to relieve the congestion 
on the beach. 

Ordnance troops assigned to the 1st En- 
gineer Special Brigade got ashore early on 
D-day. At 1030 (H plus 4) an advance 
party of the 1 9 1 st Ordnance Battalion and 
4 officers and 56 men of the 625th Ammu- 
nition Company landed. The experienced 



team of the 625th had supported the en- 
gineers in Exercise Tiger. 8 Next morning, 
when the first of the preloaded ammunition 
LCT's came in, the whole 625th was ashore 
and the first beach dump was set up about 
600 yards behind Tare Green Beach. 
That afternoon a British destroyer brought 
in the commanding officer and some head- 
quarters men of First Army's 101st Ammu- 
nition Battalion, who had been rescued 
from the USS Susan B. Anthony twenty- 
two miles offshore when she struck an 
enemy mine and sank. In the next few 
days, through the joint efforts of the 101st 
Ammunition Battalion and the 1st Engi- 
neer Special Brigade, the first inland dump 
was established near Audouville-la-Hubert. 
In spite of some enemy shelling and bomb- 
ing, mostly at night, the dump was soon 
operating smoothly. 9 

Most of the ammunition was brought to 
the beach by DUKW's. Some care was 
taken to see that these vehicles did not be- 
come overworked, as they had been in the 
invasion of Sicily. At transfer points on 
the beach the loads, still in cargo nets, were 
lifted out by cranes and placed in trucks 
that took them to the dumps; the DUKW 
drivers had such definite orders not to drive 
inland that even General Bradley, who 
visited Utah on 7 June, was unable to get 
a ride in one to VII Corps headquarters. 
The 1st Engineer Special Brigade's DUKW 
maintenance company, the 3497th (vet- 



8 In Tiger, the 625th Company lost 12 men 
when their LST was sunk by a German E-boat, 
and shortly before the invasion 7 men were killed 
and 13 injured when the company's rear echelon 
CP at Falmouth was bombed. History 625th Am- 
munition Co 1 Dec 42-Jan 46. 

9 (i) Opn Rpt, 1st Engr Special Brigade, 
Neptune Opn (Utah Beach), 6 Jun 44-24 Oct 
44, Annex 4, Incl B; Annex 6, Incl F. (2) History 
Hq & Hq Det 101st Ord Ammunition Bn, 27 Aug 
42-12 Nov 45. (3) Atlas Monograph. 



248 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



erans of Sicily) did not land until D plus 3, 
but was not needed earlier. 10 

The first Ordnance maintenance com- 
pany on Utah (except for the division 
light maintenance companies) was First 
Army's 2d Medium Maintenance Com- 
pany, assigned to the 4th Division. This 
was Ordnance's oldest company, with a 
history dating back to Chateau-Thierry and 
the Meuse-Argonne in World War I; it 
was soon given a chance to show that it 
could live up to its traditions. Landing on 
8 June, the 2d looked like a combat team, 
for according to Medaris' plan for mainte- 
nance companies to carry as many replace- 
ment items as possible, it brought artillery 
in calibers from 40-mm. antiaircraft guns 
to 155-mm. howitzers and almost every 
type of combat and general purpose vehi- 
cle, each vehicle combat-loaded with am- 
munition, gas for 150 miles, and food for 
three days. While the men were unload- 
ing this formidable cargo from their Lib- 
erty ships into pitching LCT's and Rhinos, 
with an M4 tank swaying in midair, Ger- 
man planes swooped out of the low-hang- 
ing clouds and attacked them with bombs 
and machine guns. When the men got 
to the beach they met severe fire from a 
German shore battery that killed three men 
of the company and wounded seven so seri- 
ously that they had to be sent back to 
England. 

Until 15 June, when units of the 184th 
Ordnance Battalion arrived, the 2d sup- 
ported not only the 4th Infantry Division 
but also the 9th and 90th Infantry Divi- 
sions, the 82d and 101st Airborne Divisions, 
and VII Corps troops. Its wreckers were 



almost immediately put to work clearing 
the littered causeways, and its replacement 
stocks were drawn on to reoutfit a complete 
battalion of the 90th Infantry Division that 
had lost all its equipment in the landings. 
The 2d Medium Maintenance Company 
set up the first Ordnance supply point on 
the Continent in two fields at St. Hubert, 
as well as the first Ordnance collecting 
point and medium maintenance shop. On 
13 June, moving north on the heels of the 
4th Infantry Division, the company opened 
a shop in a field only two and a half miles 
from Montebourg, where a hard battle was 
being fought. In the next field was a bat- 
talion of 155-mm. howitzers that made 
sleep almost impossible, but nobody had 
much time to sleep anyway, for the work 
went on long after dark by flashlight in 
blackout tents. 11 

Frustration in the Hedgerows 

The two beachheads were joined on 13 
June, the day after the 101st Airborne 
Division entered the town of Carentan. In 
the following two weeks VII Corps under 
General Collins sealed off the neck of the 
Cotentin peninsula and captured Cher- 
bourg. General Bradley had scheduled a 
simultaneous attack east toward St. L6 by 
VIII Corps, committed on 15 June under 
Maj. Gen. Troy H. Middleton; but on 19 
June Omaha and Utah Beaches were hit 
by a violent northeaster that continued for 
several days. Ammunition ships could not 
be unloaded, and it was Medaris' "unfor- 
tunate responsibility" to advise Bradley that 



10 ( 1 ) Atlas Monograph. (2) Bradley, A Soldier's 
Story, p. 281. (3) History ist Engr Special Bri- 
gade, Annex 6, Incl F. 



11 ( 1 ) History 2d Ord Medium Maint Co, Jan- 
Dec 44. (2) Capt. Fred A. Tadini, "The OP 2nd," 
Firepower, vol. II, No. 2 (August-September 1945), 
PP- 2-3. 



THE FAR SHORE IN NORMANDY 



249 



there was not enough ammunition to sup- 
port two attacks. Bradley chose to post- 
pone Middleton's attacks- 
After the capture of Cherbourg, VII 
Corps, moving to the region south of 
Carentan, and VIII Corps, strung out 
across the Cotentin neck, began to prepare 
for the push to the highway that ran from 
Coutances to St. L6 along a ridge that 
roughly marked the end of the Normandy 
shoulder and the beginning of the main 
body of France. VII and VIII Corps 
would be aided on their left by XIX Corps 
(committed 13 June under Maj. Gen. 
Charles H. Corlett), separated from the 
VII Corps sector by the Carentan Canal. 
Left of XIX Corps, General Gerow's V 
Corps was in the relatively quiet part of the 
front that joined the British near Caumont. 
By the end of June, on the 40-mile U.S. 
front that stretched from the bulge at Cau- 
mont to the west Channel shore of the 
Cotentin, there were two airborne divisions 
(overdue for relief), nine infantry divisions, 
and two armored divisions. First Army 
now had more men than the combined 
forces of Patton and Montgomery in the 
Sicily Campaign. 13 

To provide Ordnance support for this 
huge force, Colonel Medaris had fourteen 
battalions in Normandy or en route. Be- 
hind each corps he positioned a battalion to 
furnish forward area support, operate a 
corps collecting point, and perform recov- 
ery and evacuation; within these forward 
battalions the medium maintenance com- 
panies had definite assignments to support 
specified divisions. Behind each forward 
battalion there was eventually to be an 



army support battalion to do fourth eche- 
lon work on weapons and vehicles, keep 
artillery and tanks in condition, and oper- 
ate an army collecting point. The army 
area around Isigny was to receive a depot 
battalion for all Class II and IV supply, 
and near it a main army fourth echelon 
battalion and a battalion to inspect and re- 
condition materiel in the hands of units re- 
lieved from combat. In the beach area 
was placed an army battalion to do anti- 
aircraft maintenance, dispatch vehicles to 
the depot battalion, and generally perform 
liaison with the Engineer beach brigades. 
Of the two ammunition battalions, one 
was to operate Depot 10 1 and ASP's for 
VII and VIII Corps, the other to operate 
Depot 100 and ASP's for V and XIX 
Corps. 14 

In the VII and VIII Corps sector, all 
battalions, including ammunition, came 
under the 224th Ordnance Base Group; in 
the V and XIX Corps sector, they came 
under the 52d Ordnance Group when it 
set up headquarters in Normandy at Blay 
on 28 June, the day after its arrival from 
England. With the 52d headquarters 
came Col. Nelson M. Lynde, Jr., who had 
been acting as Medaris' deputy in England. 
Lynde became the maintenance and supply 
officer of First Army Ordnance Section. A 
capable officer with long experience in the 
Mediterranean, he added considerable 
weight to Medaris' staff at the time the 
major operation southward from the beach- 
heads began. 15 

The advance began early in July, and it 



,2 Ltr, Maj Gen J. B. Medaris (USA Ret) to 
Brig Gen Hal C. Pattison, 28 Oct 63, OCMH. 
"Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 315. 



" Hq Ord Service First U.S. Army, Operations 
Orders No. 3, 22 Jun; No. 5, 28 Tun; No. 6, 9 Jul; 
No. 16, 17 Jul 44, OHF. 

15 ( 1 ) Hq Ord Service First U.S. Army, Opera- 
tions Order No. 5, 28 Jun 44; (2) History 52d 
Ord Group, 21 Aug 43-13 May 45. 



250 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




Colonel Lynde 

was evident from the first that terrain and 
weather were going to make the going 
painfully slow. First Army was in hedge- 
row country — orchards and pastures cut 
into tiny fields, each field fenced in by 
dense hedges of shrubs and small trees 
growing out of embankments up to ten feet 
high, often flanked by drainage ditches or 
sunken roads. Rain made lakes of the 
Cotentin marshes on the VII and VIII 
Corps fronts and turned even the high 
ground into sticky mud. And the weather 
prevented planes from giving close support. 
The hedgerows could conceal anything 
from an enemy sniper to an antitank gun 
and could stop tanks, which, unable to 
climb the embankments without exposing 
their vulnerable underbellies, had to wait 
for openings to be blown with TNT. 
Hardly anywhere could a man see beyond 
the field ahead of him. It was frustrating, 
depressing warfare, almost like the fighting 



some of the officers had experienced on 
Guadalcanal. After a few days of it, Gen- 
eral Bradley limited the objective consid- 
erably. The objective was now the high- 
way between Lessay and St. L6. Even so, 
it was not attained until 18 July, when St. 
L6 was captured. After seventeen days of 
heroic effort that cost some 40,000 casual- 
ties, First Army had not advanced more 
than seven miles at any point along the 
wide front. 16 

In the lonely skirmishes with a hidden 
enemy the troops had used a great deal of 
ammunition, "spraying the hedgerows" 
with machine gun bullets, one Ordnance 
officer noted, as though with a hose, and 
lobbing grenades and mortar shells over 
the embankments. They had also used a 
great many more smoke shells than had 
been expected. White phosphorus was 
useful to clean out nests of snipers, for it 
caused nasty burns and the Germans soon 
learned to dread it; and a good deal of 
smoke was used for signaling to aircraft. 
Watching the St. L6 attack, war corre- 
spondents were reminded of battlefields 
sketched in an illustrated history of the 
Civil War, with smoke lying in the valleys 
and hanging over the fields and little 
patches of woods. 17 

The reserves of infantry and artillery am- 
munition that had been accumulated dur- 
ing June were rapidly depleted. On 14 



16 (i)Martin Blumenson, Breakout and Pursuit, 
UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II 
(Washington, 1 961 ) , p. 175. (2) Pyle, Brave Men, 
p. 256. 

17 ( 1 ) Interv, Maj Gen Floyd A. Hansen, 15 
Sep 60. (2) Ord Office Jnl, XIX Corps AAR, 30 
Jun 44, Annex D to sec. IV. (3) Pyle, Brave Men, 
p. 302. (4) Ralph Ingersoll, Top Secret (New 
York: Harcourt, Brace, 1946), p. 173. (5) Robert 
J. Casey, This Is Where I Came In (New York: 
Bobbs-Merrill, 1945), p. 183. 



THE FAR SHORE IN NORMANDY 



251 



July Bradley began to restrict the amount 
of these types that could be fired. This 
proved to be a satisfactory method of 
rationing, preferable to restricting the 
amount that was issued, but any kind of 
rationing was hated by the combat com- 
manders and was naturally disheartening to 
Medaris and his ammunition officer, 
Colonel Ray, all the more so because they 
felt that they were not wholly to blame. 
They had predicted long before the inva- 
sion that such types as 57-mm. HE and 81- 
mm. mortar ammunition would be needed 
in quantity, but both were still scarce. No 
57-mm. HE except the little they could 
borrow from the British was on the Conti- 
nent. In the case of the 81 -mm., they 
suspected that it was in fact available in 
the holds of ships lying offshore in the 
Channel, but because ships' manifests were 
either inaccurate or missing altogether, they 
could not be sure. 18 

Medaris and Ray were on the right 
track. The continuing shortage of ammu- 
nition for the 8 1 -mm. mortar — a common, 
standard item — puzzled Brig. Gen. Ray- 
mond G. Moses, 1 2th Army Group G-4, 
until an investigation revealed that the rea- 
son was not only a sudden increase in con- 
sumption but inaccurate records on the 
amount available. Hasty and indiscrimi- 
nate unloading of ships offshore and the 
inability of the receivers to identify and 
thus report correctly on the huge stocks 
dumped on the beaches were problems that 
also affected supplies for weapons and vehi- 



18 (1) First Army Rpt I, Annex 13, p. 70. (2) 
Ltr, Ray to Ord Officer, First United States Army, 
APO 230, 11 Aug 44, sub: Ammunition Supply 
Report, France, 1-31 July 1944, Folder, Ordnance 
Reports First Army Misc Jun-Aug 44, OHF. (3) 
AGF Board Rpt No. 114, Ammo and Weapons 
for 1 st Army, 14 Jul 44. 



cles, especially spare parts. But ammuni- 
tion was First Army Ordnance's main con- 
cern in the early days in Normandy. 19 

Medaris always maintained that ammu- 
nition supply was simple if you knew all 
the time just how much you had and where 
it was. Unfortunately, this state was sel- 
dom attained. In the early stages of the 
European campaign, the forward ASP's 
ran smoothly enough, but in the large 
depots in the rear (Depot 101 supplying 
VII and VIII Corps in the Utah area and 
Depot 100 supplying V and XIX behind 
Omaha), where large tonnages were arriv- 
ing from the beaches night and day, in 
good and bad weather, the men were un- 
able to report accurately on their stocks. 

Neither the men in the First Army bat- 
talions nor the men in Advance Section 
battalions that began arriving to take over 
the depots in mid- July had had enough 
training in handling ammunition under 
such hard conditions, nor had they been 
trained in fighting fires. When a fire 
broke out at Depot 1 o 1 on the afternoon of 
12 July, with a chain of explosions that 
rocked the dump and jumped across the 
hedgerows, setting off artillery shells and 
strewing burning phosphorus, the men fled 
and made little or no effort to fight it. 
The fire burned for almost four hours be- 
fore Medaris could arrive with bulldozers, 
tankdozers, and Engineer troops to apply 
the dirt-throwing techniques that Ord- 
nance had learned in the Mediterranean. 
It was not brought under control until 
0200 of the next day, and then just short 
of an area containing 450 tons of TNT. 
As it was, several of the night shift ammu- 



19 (1) Entry for 24 Jul 44, 12th AG Daily Jnl, 
Ord Sec. Mar-Jul 44. (2) Ltr, Medaris to Patti- 
son, 28 Oct 63. (3) Hansen Interv. 



252 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




The Fire at Depot 101 in the Hedgerows Behind Utah Beach 



nition men sleeping in the bivouac area 
were killed and about 1,500 tons of ammu- 
nition were lost. 20 

Compared with the difficulty of ammu- 
nition supply, the maintenance burden in 
the hedgerow battles was not heavy. The 
forward medium maintenance companies 
were mainly concerned with the truckloads 
of muddy, rusting, sometimes bloodstained 



20 ( 1 ) USFET Board Rpt, Ammunition Supply 
and Operations, European Campaign, Ordnance 
Section, Study Number 100, app. 4. (2) Ltr, Ray 
to Ordnance Officer, FUSA, APO 230, 1 1 Aug 44. 
(3) Atlas Monograph. (4) History 101st Ammuni- 
tion Bn. 



rifles that came to their small arms sections. 
In this congested area, little truck mainte- 
nance beyond the repair of battle damage 
was needed. The Ordnance units had 
time to improvise several field expedients 
to help the infantrymen break through the 
hedgerows. One successful effort provided 
a more sensitive fuze for the bazooka pro- 
jectiles, thus enabling the weapon to blow 
gaps in the hedgerows; another modified 
the carbine to deliver brief bursts of full 
automatic fire, thereby increasing the quick 
reaction of infantry firepower in this type 
of fighting. In the rear, First Army's 



THE FAR SHORE IN NORMANDY 



253 




Tank With Hedgerow Cutter and Sandbags 



heavy shop battalion, the 25th, manufac- 
tured a number of devices requested by the 
combat commanders — a sight for the rifle 
grenade launcher, special mounts for 
machine guns, a simple type of periscope 
for peering over the hedgerows, and, most 
important of all, an attachment to enable 
tanks to penetrate the hedgerows. 21 



21 (1) Pyle, Brave Men, pp. 286-87. (2) Intervs, 
Capt Homer C. Doman, Maintenance Officer, 83d 
Ord Bn; Lt Col Howard M. Elliott, CO 25th Ord 
Bn; by William M. Hines, Sr., in Hines, History of 
the General Purpose Vehicle 1941 to 1945 (here- 
after cited as Hines History), pp. 299-302, OHF. 
(3) Lt. Col. James D. Sams, "Ordnance Im- 
provisation in the Combat Zone," Military Review, 



The Hedgerow Cutters and the 
Cobra Breakthrough 

By mid-July, budding inventors in the 
First Army had produced several devices 
to be attached to the front of a tank to dig 
into the hedgerows. The best was con- 
tributed by Sgt. Curtis G. Culin, Jr., of 
V Corps' I02d Cavalry Reconnaissance 
Squadron, a light tank unit. The contriv- 
ance itself, a strong iron fork with five 
straight tines, was developed by an officer 

XXVIII, 2 (May 1948), PP- 32-36. (4) Ltr, Me- 
daris to Pattison, 28 Oct 63. (5) First Army Rpt 
I, Annex 13, p. 91 . 



254 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



of the squadron's maintenance unit, Lt. 
Steve Litton, who used the angle iron bars 
or tetrahedrons that the Germans had em- 
placed off the beaches to rip the bottoms 
out of landing boats. At a demonstration 
attended by General Bradley and Colonel 
Medaris, the hedgerow cutter, or Rhinoc- 
eros, showed that it could slice through 
the matted roots in the embankments, en- 
abling the tank to pass through the hedge- 
row instead of climbing it. The vulnerable 
underbelly of the tank was not exposed, 
and the nose was down, so that the guns 
were in a better firing position. 22 

The hedgerow cutter model came at a 
providential time, less than a week before 
the planned jump-off for Operation Cobra. 
Cobra was the breakthrough south of the 
Periers-St. L6 road by three VII Corps 
infantry divisions to open a gap through 
which a motorized infantry division was 
expected to dash fifteen miles southwest to 
Coutances, bottling up the Germans that 
were blocking the VIII Corps front; two 
armored divisions were to go on to 
Avranches and turn the corner into Brit- 
tany. Beyond the Periers-St. L6 road the 
armor had to cross a belt of hedgerow 
country — the hilly, true bocage — before it 
could get to the plains beyond ; it was essen- 
tial that the tanks get through the bocage 
quickly. Bradley ordered Medaris to put 
hedgerow cutters on as many Cobra tanks, 
light and medium, as possible. As it 
turned out, the jump-off had to be post- 
poned for a week because poor weather 



22 ( i ) Martin Blumenson, Breakout and Pur- 
suit, p. 206. (2) Operations Report, Ordnance 
Section V Corps, 6 Jun-31 Jul 44, p. 4. (3) W. 
L. White, "Sergeant Culin Licks the Hedgerows," 
Reader's Digest, vol. 56, no. 334 (February 1950), 
81-84. 



conditions grounded the bombers; but 
there was still not much time. 23 

Medaris arranged a demonstration at his 
25th Battalion headquarters. He organ- 
ized a large crew of welders and skilled 
mechanics from his maintenance com- 
panies, pooling their facilities for mass pro- 
duction, and sent his tank transporters to 
the beaches to round up tetrahedrons. 
They were plentiful enough. The critical 
item was welding material. Medaris had 
requisitioned what seemed to the supply 
agencies enormous amounts of it during the 
preparations for Overlord. Experience 
had taught him that it would be needed by 
the service sections of his maintenance com- 
panies because they would have to do a 
great deal of manufacture whenever the 
inevitable crises in supply arose. With the 
backing of Colonel Wilson, the First Army 
G— 4, he not only cleaned out all the weld- 
ing rod in the depots in England, carrying 
to the Continent every pound he could, but 
he took action to increase the supply. His 
foresight was rewarded. When he flew 
back from Normandy to obtain enough 
welding rod to make the hedgerow cutters, 
it was available; emergency action would 
have been useless at this point. The eve- 
ning Medaris left for England, a sudden 
and acute shortage of oxygen-acetylene 
cylinders was discovered. Though scarce 
in the United Kingdom, the cylinders were 
rounded up and delivered by air before 
breakfast next morning, an operation that 
was watched with amazement by Mont- 
gomery's chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Sir 
Francis de Guingand, who was visiting at 
Bradley's headquarters at the time. In 
forty-eight hours First Army Ordnance 



Bradley, A Soldier's Story, pp. 330, 342. 



THE FAR SHORE IN NORMANDY 



255 



men made nearly 300 hedgerow cutters, 
and in a week three out of every five tanks 
to be used in the breakthrough were 
equipped with them. 24 

Many of the tanks equipped with hedge- 
row cutters also carried on their fronts piles 
of sandbags or extra pieces of armor plate, 
for the crews knew that the tanks, which 
had been used up to now largely as mobile 
pillboxes, did not have armor thick enough 
to withstand the German guns. This had 
been discovered in North Africa. Also, 
neither the 75-mm. gun on most of the 
Shermans nor the 138 new 76-mm. guns 
(in reality 3-inch guns specially designed 
for tank use) that arrived in Normandy 
on 20 July would penetrate the frontal 
armor of the German Tigers and Panthers. 
The tankers could only hope that after the 
Shermans broke out of the bocage and got 
on the plains beyond, they could outman- 
euver the German tanks, whose long guns 
made them hard to handle. For the artil- 
lerymen the picture was much brighter. 
When the Cobra breakthrough began on 
25 July, First Army had some of the big 
pieces that had been so prized in Italy, 
eighteen 240-mm. howitzers and six 8-inch 
guns. They also had 48 of the new self- 
propelled 155-mm. gun, Mi 2, the first 
self-propelled field gun sent overseas. 25 



24 (1) First Army Rpt I, Annex 13, p. 92. (2) 
History 177th Ord Bn 1944, Journal Entries 14-23 
Jul 44. (3) Ltr, Medaris to Pattison, 28 Oct 63. 
(4) Col J. B. Medaris, "Field Service in the First 
Army," Army Ordnance, XXVIII, 148 (January- 
February 1945), p. 67. (5) De Guingand, Opera- 
tion Victory, p. 395. (6) On the use of the tank 
transporters see Sgt. S. W. Dobrans, "Nellie's a 
Lady," Firepower (June-July 1945), p. 7. 

25 ( 1 ) Col W. R. Slaughter, Report of Observa- 
tions in ETOUSA [14 Jul-4 Sep], 20 Sep 44 
(hereafter cited as Slaughter Rpt), p. 30. (2) 
Memo, Gen Barnes for General Campbell, 1 1 Oct 
44, sub: History of Tank Guns. Both in Barnes 



Supplies and service troops had been 
pouring in over the beaches while the frus- 
trating hedgerow battles were being fought. 
By 25 July there were 18 divisions of com- 
bat troops on the Continent (the two air- 
borne divisions had been withdrawn). 
Though the build-up of service troops was 
not in proportion, it was still enough to 
enable Medaris to reinforce and improve 
his First Army Ordnance service. By the 
end of July he had three new group head- 
quarters — the 51st, 71st, and 72d. The 
51st relieved the 224th (released to 
ADSEC) as the forward organization 
paralleling the 52d Group; the 71st took 
over the ammunition battalions and the 
task of supervising all army ammunition 
operations, including ASP's and army 
depots; and the 7 2d assumed the opera- 
tions in the main army area, commanding 
four battalions that ran the main shop and 
depots and did the inspection-and-refitting 
and evacuation work. 26 {Charts 

The evacuation battalion, formed in 
mid-July, was a tribute to the usefulness of 
tank transporters, not only for hauling 
tanks but for moving all kinds of cumber- 
some supplies, like the tetrahedrons that 
were used in making the hedgerow cutters. 
The huge vehicles, with their long skeleton- 
ized trailers, were awkward and slow, and 
on the narrow, twisting roads of the hedge- 
row country were cursed by the convoys 
that piled up behind them; but they were 
invaluable. By pooling his three evacua- 
tion companies Medaris had a tremendous 



File, OHF. (3) Bradley, A Soldiers Story, pp. 
322-23. (4) First Army Rpt I, Annex 13, p. 80. 
(5) Green, Thomson, and Roots, Planning Muni- 
tions for War, pp. 316-17. 

26 (1) FUSA Ord Service, Operations Order 19, 
30 Jul 44, OHF. (2) First Army Rpt I, Annex 13, 
p. 88. 



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THE FAR SHORE IN NORMANDY 



257 




A Tank Transporter H, 



Ammunition, France 



amount of lift that could be used for a mass 
movement in an emergency. Normally the 
battalion brought heavy materiel back from 
collecting points, moved supplies between 
main shop and depot and out to the for- 
ward units, and in a pinch helped the for- 
ward collecting companies. 27 

The crews of the forward collecting 
companies, known as the "Diesel Boys" 
from their diesel-powered M19 tank trans- 
porters, operated close to the front, often 
under fire, employing road patrols with 
wreckers to clear broken-down tanks and 
vehicles from main routes of advance under 
severe enemy bombardment. Ernie Pyle, 
who accompanied crewmen from the 974th 



Evacuation Company (Collecting) when 
they retrieved a German tank on the Caren- 
tan front one night in July, was impressed 
by their bravery and skill. He also noted 
their ability to make themselves comfortable 
back in the bivouac area, in tents strung 
out along the hedgerows. One driver even 
had a feather bed that he had got from a 
French family. "The average soldier 
couldn't carry a feather bed around with 
him, " commented Ernie, "but the driver 
of an M-19 could carry ten thousand 
feather beds and never know the differ- 
ence." 28 

During the slow fighting in the hedge- 



27 (1) FUSA Ord Service, Operations Order 16, 
7 Jul 44, OHF. (2) Slaughter Rpt, p. 24. 



28 (1) History 974th Ord Evacuation Co (Coll) 
Feb 43-May 45. (2) Pyle, Brave Men, pp. 290-95. 
(3) Slaughter Rpt, p. 4. 



258 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



rows, Colonel Medaris had been disturbed 
to find many Ordnance units settling down 
with a feeling of permanence, even in tents. 
To prepare them for the breakthrough that 
everybody hoped would open the door for 
a rapid advance across France, he frequent- 
ly issued movement orders without warning 
and ( it seemed to the troops ) without rea- 
son. These moves jarred the men out of 
fixed habits and helped them to regain the 
flexibility of thought and action that were 
going to be needed after St. L6. 29 

Expansion After Cobra: 
Third Army 

The Cobra breakthrough, aided by one 
of the greatest saturation bombings of the 
war, was a brilliant success. In the last 
five days of July, First Army captured not 
only Coutances but Avranches, the gate- 
way from Normandy into central France. 
General Eisenhower had directed on 25 
July that U.S. ground troops on the Con- 
tinent be regrouped into the First and 
Third Armies, the two armies to be con- 
trolled by 1 2th Army Group, which would 
be commanded by General Bradley. On 1 
August Bradley went to 12th Army Group, 
leaving First Army (V, VII, and XIX 
Corps) under the command of General 
Hodges. Third Army (VIII, XV, and XX 
Corps) was given to General Patton, who 
had been impatiently waiting on the Coten- 
tin peninsula since early July. 30 



29 Medaris, "Field Service in the First Army, 
Army Ordnance, XXVIII, 148 (Jan-Feb 45), 
p. 67. 

30 ( 1 ) Pogue, The Supreme Command, p. 204. 
(2) After-Action Report, Third U.S. Army, 1 
August 1944-9 May 1945 (hereafter cited as 
Third Army Rpt), vol. II, Staff Section Reports, 
Command, p. 2. 



Third Army Ordnance men began arriv- 
ing on the Continent the second week in 
July. Crossing beaches under a night sky 
made brilliant by streaming, crisscrossing 
antiaircraft tracers and the wink of the 
high-altitude 90-mm. shells, they could see 
in the distance a "red booming sky," where 
the hedgerow battles were being fought on 
a front only a few miles away. As they 
proceeded inland to Bricquebec, the Third 
Army concentration area near Cherbourg, 
they saw evidences of what the invasion 
had cost — "heaps of rubble where houses 
had once been, things which had once been 
men, piles of shell cases, scattered equip- 
ment, crashed gliders," the cemetery at Ste.- 
Mere-Eglise filling up with white crosses. 
They found the ruins of Montebourg and 
Valognes still hot. At Bricquebec, waiting 
in the apple orchards and hedgerows for 
Third Army to go into action, the ammuni- 
tion men collected abandoned U.S. and 
enemy ammunition, and the maintenance 
men made hedgerow cutters for Patton's 
tanks, obtaining welding material through 
the good offices of the Navy, which not 
only supplied tons of welding rod and many 
bottles of oxygen and acetylene from its 
own stocks, but procured quantities of 
these scarce articles for Third Army in 
England, delivering them at Cherbourg. 31 

By 1 August there were about 10,000 
men in Third Army Ordnance Service, 
including the men that were transferred 
from First Army (most of them support- 
ing VIII Corps). Those assigned but not 
yet arrived would bring the number to 
around 15,000. Colonel Nixon, Patton's 



31 ( 1 ) Third Army Ordnance Unit Histories, 
ETO Ord Sec Histories, KCRC. (2) Third Army 
Rpt, vol. II, Ordnance, p. 6. For strenuous attempts 
to obtain welding material in France, see History 
984th Depot Co, ETO Ord Sec, KCRC. 



THE FAR SHORE IN NORMANDY 



259 



Ordnance officer, had organized them in 
England under the now familiar group 
system, the forward maintenance and sup- 
ply battalions (each battalion supporting a 
corps) and the intermediate battalions 
(supporting the forward battalions as well 
as corps and army troops) under a forward 
group; the fourth echelon battalions under 
a rear group; and the ammunition battal- 
ions under an ammunition group. 32 

Because of personnel shortages in the 
United States and the higher priority ac- 
corded First Army and ADSEC, Nixon 
had been forced to improvise. He had 
only two group headquarters, the 69th 
controlling the forward and intermediate 
battalions and the 70th controlling the rear 
shops and depots, and both had been ob- 
tained by converting battalion headquarters 
already in the theater into group headquar- 
ters. He had no ammunition group head- 
quarters until September, when the 82d 
was organized; in the meantime, the 313th 
Ammunition Battalion acted as a group 
headquarters. By mid-May, after First 
Army and ADSEC had been satisfied, all 
types of Ordnance units were scarce and the 
War Department had informed the theater 
that the units expected in the next three 
months would be fewer than had been an- 
ticipated because they were not available in 
the United States. Nixon's most serious 
shortages were in depot, evacuation, heavy 
tank maintenance, and ammunition com- 
panies, and ammunition battalion head- 
quarters. A few maintenance companies 
were furnished to him from FECOMZ, but 
he had to supplement his single ammuni- 
tion battalion headquarters by converting 



three maintenance battalion headquarters 
to ammunition. 33 

An even more serious cause for concern 
was supply. Again the reason was low 
priority. In England in the spring of 1944 
First Army's requirements had so drained 
the theater's stocks that Third Army Ord- 
nance Service had only about 50 percent of 
its basic load, and had no reserves of major 
items. The planners intended to fill its 
needs from the huge stocks being shipped 
from the United States, but congestion at 
the British ports made this impossible. Dur- 
ing May, tonnage made available to Ord- 
nance amounted to only 31 percent of that 
expected. The commodity-loaded ships 
that were to go directly to the Continent 
would probably relieve the situation, but 
there was little hope from this quarter until 
late in the summer. In the meantime, it 
was doubtful whether Third Army would 
receive more than 75 percent of its T/E 
vehicles before it went into combat. 34 

As a result of the "poor relation" posi- 
tion of Third Army in England, many of 
its Ordnance units arrived on the Con- 
tinent in July with shortages not only in 
their basic load of spare parts but in such 



32 Third U.S. Army Outline Plan, Opn Over- 
lord, Annex 2, Troop Basis, Third Army Rpt, 
vol. I. 



33 ( 1 ) Third Army Rpt, vol. II, Ordnance, pp. 
2-6. (2) Memo, CofS for CG AGF, 12 Jun 44, 
sub: Activation of Hqs and Hqs Detachment, 
Ordnance Group. (3) Ltr, Secy War to CG ETO, 
20 Jun 44, sub: Activation of Headquarters and 
Headquarters Detachments, Ordnance Groups. 
Last two in ASF Planning Div, Theater Br. (4) 
Rpt of Meeting of Ordnance Officers, 19 May 44, 
1 2th Army Group 337 Conference Meetings. (5) 
1 2th U.S. Army Group (FUSAG) Daily Journal, 
Ordnance Section, 19 May 44. 

34 (1 ) Intervs, Col Nixon, 25 Aug 45; Col Harry 
H. Gibson, CO 79th Ord Bn, 26 Jul 45, in Hines 
History, pp. 303, 306. (2) USFET Gen Bd Rpt 
No. 99. (3) Bykofsky and Larson, The Transpor- 
tation Corps: Operations Overseas, p. 109. (4) 
1 2th Army Group (FUSAG) Daily Journal, Ord- 
nance Section, 6 May, 9 May 44. 



260 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



essentials as shop trucks and tools; the 
79th Battalion at Bricquebec, for example, 
had only between 60 and 70 percent of the 
tools it needed. These shortages were re- 
lieved to a great extent by the efforts of a 
representative that Nixon had left behind in 
Cheltenham, who arranged for most of the 
scarce articles to be brought to the Con- 
tinent by units arriving later. Again the 
evacuation companies with their big tank 
transporters came in handy for hauling 
supplies. Several truck companies were 
used to deliver spare parts, not only for the 
Third Army depot and maintenance com- 
panies, but for the 2d French Armored 
Division attached to Third Army. This 
division, commanded by Maj. Gen. Jac- 
ques Leclerc and composed in part of the 
famous Leclerc Column that had fought in 
Tripolitania and Tunisia, was to be com- 
mitted after the breakout, an earlier com- 
mitment than was at first planned. To ex- 
pedite its equipment, as well as to speed 
the supply of tools and equipment of his 
own Ordnance units, Nixon made two trips 
to England in July. 35 

When Third Army became operational 
on 1 August, its Ordnance supply units had 
little stock other than organically carried 
replacement items, spare parts, and am- 
munition. But there was the probability 
that additional stocks could be obtained 
from ADSEC. Brig. Gen. James H. Strat- 
ton, COMZ G-4, had established a policy 
that all First Army stocks in COMZ depots 
on the Continent that were excess to First 
Army's needs would be released at once to 



Third Army. On supplies requested by 
both armies, urgent command action would 
be taken, and allocation between the two 
armies would be made by 12th Army 
Group, which had just set up headquarters 
in a bombed-out orphanage building at 
Periers. On the whole, except for a few 
shortages, the situation was considered 
fairly good at the beginning of August. 
Huge stocks were piled under tarpaulins on 
the beaches, which were now able to handle 
30,000 long tons a day. Cherbourg had 
been opened on 19 July; and high hopes 
existed that Brest and other Brittany ports 
— prime objectives in the Overlord 
planning — would soon be in American 
hands. 36 

The task of capturing Brest was given to 
Patton and Patton generated confidence. 
Bradley reported to General Eisenhower 
that he and his men felt "pretty cocky" 
about the future. 37 After the dank battles 
in the hedgerows, the southward sweep of 
the armies was exhilarating. First Army 
turned southeastward toward Vire to drive 
back the enemy's center and hold open the 
corridor at Avranches. Third Army drove 
southwest into Brittany and made brilliant 
progress. By 4 August, Patton had captured 
Rennes and had armored units as far as 
Loudeac, in the center of the peninsula. 
The weather turned warm and clear, so 
that air support was always possible; the 
enemy seemed shattered in this region, and 
the French Maquis were rising. 



35 (1) Third Army Rpt, vol. II, Ordnance, p. 
6. (2) Interv, Gibson, in Hines History. (3) On the 
2d French Armored Division, see Marcel Vigneras, 
Rearming the French, UNITED STATES ARMY 
IN WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1957), p. 10; 
and Pogue, The Supreme Command, p. 239. 



30 (1) Col. T. H. Nixon, "Across the Beach- 
heads," Army Ordnance, XXVIII, 150 (May- 
June 1945), p. 398. (2) 1 2th Army Group 
(FUSAG) Daily Journal, Ord Sec, 1-5 Aug 44. 
(3) Rpt on General Weaver's Conference of 15 
Jul 44, ETO Ord Sec O.S. 334 Meetings and Con- 
ferences General, Feb 43-Jul 44, KCRC. 

37 Pogue, The Supreme Command, p. 200. 



THE FAR SHORE IN NORMANDY 



261 







Shells Stacked by Type To Facilitate Issue, France 



Things looked so good that General 
Montgomery, who until i September, when 
SHAEF arrived on the Continent, was to 
have operational control of all Allied forces, 
made a major change in the tactical plan. 
Using First Army as a holding force, he 
ordered Third Army to leave only one 



Corps, the VIII, to clear Brittany and to 
make its main effort in a wide sweep east- 
ward from Rennes toward Laval and 
Angers. Eisenhower reported to Marshall 
"Patton has the marching wing . . . ." 3S 



Ibid., p. 209. 



CHAPTER XV 



The Race Across France 



"The time you saw the American Army 
on the move was after Avranches," wrote 
an observer. After the capture of Avran- 
ches on 31 July 1944, bulldozers and 
scrapers were clearing the roads of the Ger- 
man wreckage left in the wake of the great 
sweep of Allied bombers and strafers. The 
main roads were almost bumper to 
bumper with vehicles. There were long 
trains of 2/2 -ton trucks, sometimes forty 
or fifty in a train; tank transporters with 
huge cabs; refrigerator trucks like box- 
cars; trucks piled high with telegraph 
poles or little nests of boats, stacked like 
saucers, for river crossings. There were 
generals' caravans and service units' mobile 
workshops. Between the supply convoys, 
batteries of artillery squeezed themselves, 
and sometimes there was a tank on its own 
treads, though more often the tanks took 
the side roads or made their own roads 
across the fields to keep from blocking the 
march. In and out among the big vehicles 
scurried the jeeps, climbing the sides of the 
roads to get through. 1 

On the run, Colonel Nixon took over the 
Ordnance units supporting VIII Corps, 
which was by then already headed for 
Brest. The story of the 665th Ammuni- 
tion Company shows how fast things were 
moving. For the breakout after Cobra, 
one officer and 25 men of the 665th (they 



called themselves the Secret 25) had been 
selected by Medaris to operate a rolling 
ASP on ten tank transporters, each loaded 
with fifty tons of ammunition, to follow the 
armored columns and make issues directly 
from the transporters. This plan was 
abandoned because of the quick success of 
the breakout and the small amount of am- 
munition expended; but the company 
marched close on the heels of the 4th and 
6th Armored Divisions, and was so far 
ahead of the mine sweeping Engineers that 
on 29 July the men had to drive cattle 
through their ASP site at Muneville to 
clear it of mines. Here they set up another 
rolling ASP on 198 Quartermaster trucks 
and continued south at a fast clip. At the 
one bridge leading into Avranches they ran 
into heavy German bombing. Two men, 
Technician 5 Robert H. Bender and Pvt. 
Joseph Reyes, remained all night at this 
dangerous spot to direct the trucks to their 
next ASP south of Avranches. The com- 
pany arrived at its new area so early that it 
had to clear the site of snipers. Two days 
later, on 5 August, the 665th was attached 
to Third Army. 2 

Through the bottleneck at Avranches 
Colonel Nixon brought the bulk of his Ord- 
nance units down from Bricquebec on 6-7 
August. With only a few hours' notice, the 



Ingersoll, Top Secret, p. 192. 



2 ( 1 ) History 665th Ammunition Co, in ETO 
Ord Sec, KCRC. (2) Slaughter Rpt, p. 3. 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



263 



men threw their duffle bags into their trucks, 
skinned their shins jumping on tailgates, 
and were off on the long journey down 
dusty, bombed-out roads that became pro- 
gressively more obstructed with the traffic 
of combat units and the wreckage left be- 
hind by the Germans. The historian of one 
depot company moving through La Hayc 
du Puits, Coutances, and Gavray to Avran- 
ches found "each town an awful monument 
to hell itself. The stench of unburied 
bodies lying in the unmerciful summer sun 
was overpowering at times, as the convoy 
rolled slowly on through a red clay dust 
which clung savagely to the skin and 
blinded the eyes." To avoid the jam of 
military traffic, one Ordnance battalion 
took a back road not on any map; others 
moved by edging into traffic with about 
seven vehicles at a time; and some had to 
wait in line by the hour to cross bridges or 
intersections. 3 

The Ordnance men arrived at Avran- 
ches in the middle of the severest air bom- 
bardment Third Army had ever received. 
The Germans, counterattacking at Mor- 
tain in an attempt to drive a wedge be- 
tween First and Third Armies, not only 
bombed and strafed the bridge at Avran- 
ches but plastered the neighborhood. 
Near midnight on 6 August, just after the 
573d Ammunition Company arrived at 
Depot 1 in an apple orchard near Folligny, 
the Luftwaffe came over and destroyed 
about a thousand tons of ammunition. 
Explosions rocked the area for days. Ord- 
nance depot and maintenance companies 
moving through Avranches down to the 



Foret de Fougeres in Brittany passed 
through St. Hilaire-du-Harcouet while it 
was still burning and were bombed and 
strafed on the road. The 344th Depot 
Company had nine men killed and eighteen 
wounded. 4 

Having assembled his rear group — his 
heavy maintenance companies and main 
army depots — under the trees at Fougeres, 
Nixon's first effort was to bring down more 
supplies from Normandy. His units in the 
Bricquebec area, with little stock on 1 
August other than the organic replacement 
items they carried, spare parts and ammuni- 
tion, had been able to draw on the ADSEC 
depots in the Cotentin to some extent. 
Bringing additional supplies down through 
the Avranches bottleneck was not easy. 
Ammunition was brought forward on what 
became virtually a day-to-day basis, and in 
emergencies tank transporters and the 
trucks of maintenance units were used. 5 

After Avranches, Nixon faced a logisti- 
cian's nightmare — the support of an army 
that was split into two segments, traveling 
very fast in opposite directions. The VIII 
Corps was headed west through Brittany, 
the XV Corps was headed east toward the 
Seine. By the time Nixon had got his three 
heavy depot companies down to Fougeres 
on 8 August, more than 200 miles sepa- 
rated VIII Corps' 6th Armored Division, 
which was at the gates of Brest, and XV 
Corps' four divisions (90th and 79th Infan- 



3 ( 1 ) Col. T. H. Nixon, "Across the Beachheads," 
Army Ordnance, XXVIII, 150 (May-June 1945), 
p. 398. (2) Histories, 904th Heavy Automotive 
Maint Co, 841st Depot Co, 314th Bn, and other 
histories in ETO Ord Sec, KCRC. 



4 ( 1 ) George S. Patton, War As I Knew It 
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1947), P- 101. 
(a) Histories in ETO Ord Sec, KCRC. (3) Nixon 
blamed the ammunition losses at Depot No. i on 
the mistake of stocking the depot according to 
"the book." Thereafter stocks were spread out, 
8 tons (2 truckloads) to a stack and no other serious 
losses occurred. Nixon Comments. 

E Nixon, "Across the Beachheads," p. 398. 



264 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




MAP 



try, 5th Armored and 2d French Armored) main source of supply eighty miles north in 

at Le Mans. By that time the newly organ- Normandy, his line of communications be- 

ized XX Corps' one infantry division was gan to look like an inverted, distorted T. 

advancing south to the Loire. With Nixon's His solution to his problem was to hold the 




main stock of supplies at pivotal points so road east, the road that the supplies would 

that even if it became necessary to operate eventually follow when the main part of 

daily convoys west and south, the bulk of the army advanced toward the Seine. This 

the supplies was never moved far from the axis of advance had been explained to 



266 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Nixon by Patton when they were still in 
England, about a week before they em- 
barked for Normandy. 6 {Map 4) 

The Campaign in Brittany 

The VIII Corps was fighting in the west 
for the Brittany ports, with elements of the 
6th Armored Division near Brest, the 4th 
Armored Division approaching Lorient on 
the southern coast, and a reinforced infan- 
try division attacking St. Malo on the 
north. The VIII Corps mission lessened in 
importance as Third Army drove east. 
Even if the Breton ports were usable after 
being pounded by American air and artil- 
lery and wrecked by the Germans, they 
would still be so far to the west that they 
would place an intolerable burden on trans- 
portation. But Eisenhower and Bradley 
were unwilling to write off the ports and 
the attack continued, though it became 
more or less a subsidiary operation with low 
priority. The VIII Corps began to feel 
like an orphan. 

Most of the Germans were contained in 
the ports, but there were pockets of resist- 
ance throughout the peninsula, stragglers 
and snipers who roamed the countryside 
like brigands, concealing themselves in the 
woods and hedgerows. Supply convoys 
had to have armed escorts; to some Ameri- 
cans the supply trucks racing along in 
clouds of dust were reminiscent of stage- 
coaches making a run through Indian 
country. Everyone had to know how to 
fight. Eleven Ordnance men of the 531st 



Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank) on 
the way to Brest to deliver tanks and com- 
bat cars were ambushed by the enemy at 
Pontlion. Pursuing the Germans into the 
woods, they bagged 3 German officers and 
99 enlisted men, and released a captured 
Air Forces captain. 7 

The Ordnance officer of VIII Corps, Lt. 
Col. John S. Walker, had been warned that 
the forces in Brittany could not expect 
much in the way of supplies. No more 
tanks, either light or medium, or tank 
tracks were to be forthcoming from Third 
Army. An appeal to Third Army for ten 
jeeps and trailers met with no encourage- 
ment. Walker was told that the divisions 
would be refitted at the end of the penin- 
sular campaign, and he got the impression 
that Nixon thought the campaign would 
not last long. In the meantime, the corps 
would have to get along with what it had. 
Once in a while the men of the 24th Ord- 
nance Battalion supporting the corps were 
able to pick up some German supplies. 
The 300th Antiaircraft Maintenance Com- 
pany, for example, got some badly needed 
electrical equipment from an abandoned 
German broadcasting station near Brest, 
braving mortar fire to enter the building. 
This find was a matter of luck. The cap- 
tured German depots were generally dis- 
appointing. 8 

Soon Walker's greatest cause for concern 
was a shortage of ammunition. The attack 
on St. Malo beginning 6 August had been 
unexpectedly costly. The Germans were 
dug in behind the thick walls of an ancient 



9 ( 1 ) Blumenson, Breakout and Pursuit, pp. 
380-82, 424-29. Unless otherwise noted, this chapter 
is based on that source and on Ruppenthal, Logis- 
tical Support of the Armies, I and //. (2) Nixon, 
"Across the Beachheads," p. 398. (3) Nixon Com- 
ments, p. 14. 



7 ( 1 ) R. W. Grow, "An Epic of Brittany," Military 
Review, vol. XXVI, No. 11 (February 1947), P- 9- 

(2) History 531st Heavy Maint Co (Tank), p. 8. 

(3) Slaughter Rpt, p. 3. 

8 VIII Corps, Misc Jnls, Aug 44, Ord Sec of 
G-4 Jnls. 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



267 



citadel and had not only 88-mm. guns but 
210-mm. coastal guns turned around to 
fire inland. The attackers, with the bulk 
of VIII Corps heavy artillery, including 
two battalions of 8-inch guns and one of 
240-mm. howitzers, were hampered by a 
shortage of artillery ammunition at the 
start of the 1 o-day siege. For several days 
some of the heavy pieces had to be restricted 
to four rounds a day. By mid-August, 
when St. Malo surrendered, partly as a 
result of direct hits by 8-inch guns, VIII 
Corps was convinced that even more heavy 
artillery and considerably more artillery 
ammunition, would be needed for the all- 
out attack on Brest. 9 

As the big siege weapons moved west- 
ward toward Brest, Colonel Walker and 
Col. Gainer B. Jones, the corps G-4, drove 
to Third Army headquarters near Le Mans 
to submit VIII Corps ammunition esti- 
mates — an initial stockage of 8,700 tons, 
plus maintenance requirements totaling 
1 1 ,600 tons for the first three days. Colonel 
Nixon felt that Walker's demands were 
excessive and if satisfied would jeopardize 
support of Patton's advance to the east. 
He informed Colonel Jones that VIII Corps 
was basing its figures on more troops than it 
would have for the operation. Walker 
inferred that Third Army intended to reduce 
the attacking force because it had calcu- 
lated that Brest would surrender about 1 
September, after only a show of force. In 
the end, Nixon allotted VIII Corps only 
5,000 tons of ammunition. 10 



The VIII Corps commander, Maj. Gen. 
Troy H. Middleton, "raised all manner of 
hell," sending an urgent request personally 
to 1 2th Army Group and finally going 
straight to General Bradley, who with Gen- 
eral Patton made a flying visit to Middle- 
ton's headquarters and agreed that the new- 
ly opened Brittany Base Section would take 
over the supply of VIII Corps, which would 
be authorized to deal directly with COMZ 
without going through army. This did not 
help matters much, for there was still the 
problem of poor transportation, compli- 
cated by the gasoline shortage; inadequate 
communications; and, toward the end, 
little enthusiasm for the operation on the 
part of COMZ planners, who regarded 
the costly siege of Brest as wasteful and 
unnecessary after the capture of Antwerp 
and Le Havre on 4 and 12 September, 
respectively. It took repeated and vigorous 
action by Middleton, including refusal to 
resume the attack on Brest until his am- 
munition supply was assured, to get re- 
sults. Ammunition supply began to im- 
prove beginning 7 September. Large 
shipments came by rail and also by LST's 
from England, which were unloaded on an 
emergency beach near Morlaix on the 
northern coast of Brittany. The ammuni- 
tion company that supported the siege from 
a huge dump near Pleuvorn calculated that 
22,500 tons were expended by the time 
Brest fell on 18 September. Some 11,000 
tons were left over to be shipped east by 
rail to the German border, and in the mean- 
lime the dump was even able to fill a rush 



Third Army Rpt, vol. II, Arty Sec, pp. 3-4. 

10 ( 1 ) Ltrs, Gainer B. Jones and Col John S. 
Walker to R. G. Ruppenthal, 9 Jun 50, 15 May 
50, Folder, Ruppenthal Ltrs, OCMH. (2) Interv, 
Col Thomas H. Nixon (USA Ret), 19 May 61, 
and Nixon Comments, p. 16. (3) A second re- 



quest from VIII Corps for 3,500 tons, made direct- 
ly to 1 2th Army Group a few days later had no 
better luck. The Group Ordnance Section recom- 
mended approval, but Colonel Nixon and the 
Third Army G-4 persuaded the Group G-4 to take 
no action. 12th AG Ord Sec Daily Jnl, 21 Aug 44. 



268 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



order for 270 truckloads to support Pat- 
ton's dash eastward across France. 11 

To the Seine and Beyond: 
First Army Ordnance 

While Third Army was in Brittany and 
making its spectacular end run to Le Mans, 
First Army was intent on taking the im- 
portant road junctions of Vire and Mor- 
tain. These junctions were needed in order 
to contain the bulk of the German forces, 
which were in First Army's sector, and 
provide protection for the Avranches cor- 
ridor. According to the original plan First 
Army would then join with the British and 
Canadians on the north in a drive to the 
Seine. 

The plan was changed, at General 
Bradley's suggestion, when the Germans 
launched their strong though unsuccessful 
counterattack at Mortain on 7 August, be- 
cause it then appeared possible for the 
Americans and British to encircle the Ger- 
mans and trap them. The upper jaw of 
the vise would be a line from Tinchebray 
east to Falaise; the lower jaw, a line from 
Flers east to Argentan. By closing the gap 
of fifteen miles or so between the two east- 
ernmost towns, the Allies hoped to trap the 



11 (1) Ltr, Lt Gen Troy H. Middleton (USA 
Ret), to R. G. Ruppenthal, 19 Jun 50, Folder 
Ruppenthal Ltrs, OCMH. (2) 12th AG Ord Sec 
Jnl, 23 Aug 44. (3) History 665th Ammunition 
Co, ETO Ord Sec, KCRC; for support by an 
Ordnance observer of the ammunition company's 
figure on expenditures, see Ltr, Col Theodore A. 
Weyher to Col G. M. Taylor, 26 Sep 44, no sub, 
O.O. 350.05/16317. (4) USFET Gen Bd Rpt No. 
58, Ammunition Supply for Field Artillery, pp. 21- 
2 3- (5) The best account of the supply troubles in 
Brittany and indecision about the ports is in Rup- 
penthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, I, pages 
528-37, //, pages 46-49. 



bulk of the German forces in France in an 
area that would later be known as the 
Argentan-Falaise pocket. Both American 
armies were involved. In the First Army 
area, a corridor curving south and east 
between 2 1 Army Group and Third Army, 
the plan was for XIX and VII Corps to 
make a converging attack in the Mortain 
area and then move north toward the 2 1 
Army Group line at Flers and Argentan, 
respectively, and for V Corps to move 
southeastward from Vire to Tinchebray. 
In the Third Army sector, Patton's XV 
Corps at Le Mans was to make a 45-degree 
turn north and advance toward Argentan. 
(See Map 4-) 

Getting under way on 10 August, Third 
Army's XV Corps, spearheaded by the 5th 
Armored and 2d French Armored Divi- 
sions, was in the neighborhood of Argentan 
on 13 August. The First Army attack 
started on 12 August, when the Germans 
withdrew from Mortain. By 15 August V 
Corps had Tinchebray, XIX Corps was 
making contact with the British several 
miles west of Flers, and VII Corps was in 
position to protect the XV Corps left near 
Argentan. On that day Bradley directed 
Patton to turn the bulk of XV Corps east- 
ward toward the Seine, leaving the 2d 
French Armored and one infantry division 
to hold the "Argentan shoulder," aided by 
an infantry division from Third Army's 
XX Corps. Next day, 16 August, the Ger- 
mans in attempting to force their way out 
of the Argentan-Falaise gap launched a 
series of strong counterattacks at the shoul- 
der; and though V Corps had been brought 
down from Tinchebray, the three First 
Army corps and the British were unable to 
prevent part of the German forces from 
escaping through the gap between 18 and 
20 August. 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



269 



Then the pursuit began — to the Seine 
and beyond. The XV Corps already had 
a bridgehead across the Seine at Mantes- 
Gassicourt on 20 August; on 24 August it 
was passed to First Army and with XIX 
Corps was given the mission of aiding the 
British to cut off the enemy on the lower 
Seine. First Army's V Corps was given the 
mission of liberating Paris. Its VII Corps 
bypassed Paris on the right and headed 
north. In the last days of August, Bradley 
turned First Army north to Belgium to 
block the German retreat, and by 2 Septem- 
ber XIX Corps, moving infantrymen in 
trucks taken from artillery and antiaircraft 
units, was in Belgium at Tournai. That 
same day, the day after SHAEF became 
operational on the Continent, Eisenhower 
directed First Army to an axis between 
Cologne and Koblenz, pointing Third 
Army toward a line from Koblenz to Mann- 
heim. South of Paris, Third Army with 
XX, XII, and XV Corps, the last lately 
returned from First Army, began its rapid 
dash eastward to the Moselle. 

The advance across France by First and 
Third Armies was one of the swiftest in the 
history of warfare. The armies came out 
of the hedgerow country to the hills, then 
down into the plain; through pockets of 
German resistance and through towns that 
were ruined and towns untouched. History 
was being made each day, but "was never 
noticed," Ernest Hemingway reported, 
"only merged into a great blur of tiredness 
and dust, of the smell of dead cattle, the 
smell of earth new-broken by TNT, the 
grinding sound of tanks and bulldozers, the 
sound of automatic-rifle and machine-gun 
fire, the interceptive, dry tattle of German 
machine-pistol fire, dry as a rattler rattling; 
and the quick spurting tap of the German 
light machine guns — and always waiting 



for others to come up." ,2 

At the time First Army began the move- 
ment designed to trap the Germans in the 
Argentan-Falaise pocket, Medaris' Ord- 
nance Service had taken the shape that it 
was to retain, with few modifications, 
throughout the European campaigns. Be- 
hind each corps were two battalions, one a 
forward battalion to do third echelon main- 
tenance and operate a collecting point, the 
other a support battalion that not only did 
fourth echelon repair and heavy tank main- 
tenance as required, but operated a forward 
depot. Medaris was a firm believer then 
and always in the integration of supply re- 
sponsibilities with maintenance responsibili- 
ties in the forward area. The battalions 
behind XIX and V Corps came under the 
52d Ordnance Group. Normally those 
under VII Corps would also have come 
under that group, but in the action to close 
the Argentan-Falaise gap and in the first 
week or so of the pursuit they were too far 
away. Therefore until early September, 
when VII Corps arrived in the neighbor- 
hood of Paris, its Ordnance battalions were 
placed under the 51st Ordnance Group, 
whose primary mission was support of 
army troops — divisions in reserve, army ar- 
tillery, army tank battalions, Quartermaster 
trucks. This was to be the pattern for the 
future: when distances or road conditions 
made it impracticable for the 52d to cover 
all corps areas, or when as many as four 
corps were fighting under First Army, the 
51st Ordnance Group took on support of a 
corps; likewise, when necessary, 52 d Ord- 
nance Group supported army troops lo- 
cated in corps areas. The 72d Ord- 
nance Group ran the main army shop and 



12 Ernest Hemingway, "The G.I. and the Gen- 
eral," Collier's, vol. 114, No. 19 (November 14, 
1944), p. 11. 



270 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



the supply, refitting, and evacuation bat- 
talions. The 71st Ordnance Group con- 
trolled two ammmunition battalions of six 
companies each, one battalion to operate 
forward ASP's, the other to run the main 
army ammunition depot that held army re- 
serve ammunition and stocked the ASP's." 
(See Chart 4.) 

In the very rapid advance of First Army 
from the St. L6 area to the western border 
of Germany between 1 August and 1 2 Sep- 
tember 1944, First Army Ordnance troops 
had their first experience of blitzkrieg war- 
fare. Medaris furnished the group com- 
manders with excellent planning data by 
giving them timely information on the tac- 
tical situation and prescribing phase lines 
that Ordnance units had to clear at speci- 
fied times in order to furnish proper sup- 
port to the combat elements. After the pur- 
suit began around 20 August, the forward 
Ordnance units, which had been kept high- 
ly mobile, made long jumps forward with 
relative ease during the good summer 
weather. On 22 August the command 
post of the 52d Ordnance Group moved 
70 miles, from Beaumesnil to Les Mesles- 
Sur-Sarthe; two days later, 120 miles to La 
Loupe, where it stayed only six days before 
displacing forward 70 miles to the Paris 
area. From Paris, where the 52d took on 
the support of VII Corps in addition to 
that of V and XIX Corps, group head- 
quarters moved on 5 September 90 miles 
to Laon, and on 18 September made an- 
other 90-mile jump forward that took it 

13 ( 1 ) FUSA Rpt of Opns, 1 Aug 44-22 Feb 45 
(hereafter cited as First Army Rpt 2), Annex 9, p. 
14. (2) Ltr, Maj Gen John B. Medaris to Lida 
Mayo, 2 Dec 63, OCMH. (3) History, 52d Ord 
Group, 21 Aug 43-13 May 45. (4) FUSA Ord Sec 
Opns Order No. 26, 4 Sep 44, in First Army Ord 
Rpts 1-30 Sep 44, AAR's (monthly) First Army 
(hereafter cited as FUSA Ord Monthly Rpts), 
KCRC. 



over the Belgian border. By that time, 
some of the Ordnance companies support- 
ing the XIX and VII Corps were well into 
Belgium. A few days later those support- 
ing V Corps were in the Ardennes near 
Bastogne. 14 

At the beginning of September, when 
elements of the 52 d Ordnance Group were 
starting to move north of Paris, units of the 
51st and 72d Groups (as well as the 71st 
Ammunition Group) were still near the 
army service area at La Loupe. But a new 
army supply area far to the north, at Hirson 
near the Belgian border, was opened on 6 
September and soon these rear and army 
support groups were also on the move, some 
of the elements covering as much as 200 
miles a day. The movement of the main 
army Ordnance depot under the 72d Group 
was immeasurably aided by the addition to 
the evacuation battalion of 64 trucks late 
in August, when it was decided that much 
of the depot stock was unsuited to hauling 
by tank transporters. The trucks not only 
moved between three and four thousand 
tons of depot stocks but were also extremely 
useful in such tasks as carrying supplies 
from rear to forward units and hauling 
ammunition. 15 

To get the ammunition forward when 
First Army began the swing east in mid- 
August 1944, Medaris organized behind the 
fast-moving VII Corps a mobile ASP — the 
only large-scale mobile ASP operated to any 
extent by any of the armies. For this pur- 



14 ( 1 ) First Army Rpt 2, Annex 9, p. 13. (2) 
Histories - 52d Ord Gp, 1944 5 H Q & H Q Det & 
Med Det, 48th Ord Bn, 1944; 252d Medium Maint 
Co, 10 Apr-Dec 44; 71st Ord Bn, 1944; and 177th 
Ord Bn, 1944. 

,r ' ( 1 ) First Army Rpt 2, Annex 9, p. 13; map, 
app. 5. (2) Unit History 72d Ord Gp 1944. (3) 
Evacuation and Transportation Sec, app. Ill to 
FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt Sep 44. 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



271 



pose he arranged for the io2d Quarter- 
master Truck Battalion with five companies 
and 225 trucks to be attached to the 71st 
Ordnance Group. The ASP was organ- 
ized in two echelons. The forward echelon, 
operated by the 619th Ammunition Com- 
pany, issued directly to combat units from 
its 125 trucks, sometimes at the gun posi- 
tions, and sent its empty trucks and requests 
for ammunition back to the rear echelon, 
about twenty miles to the rear. The rear 
echelon, operated by the 587th Ammuni- 
tion Company, filled the requests of the 
forward echelon and sent convoys back to 
Depot 106, about 100 miles to the rear. 
Starting out from the area of St. Hilaire- 
du-Harcouet on 15 August, the ASP moved 
seventy miles in five days to Sees, via Cor- 
ro'n and Lassay, and remained there until 
the closing of the Argentan-Falaise gap, 
when the eastward progress of First Army 
made necessary the opening of a new depot 
at La Loupe. In its 11 -day period of 
operation, from 14 to 25 August 1944, 
the mobile ASP handled 13,156 tons of 
ammunition — 6,615 received and 6,541 
issued. 16 {Map 5) 

Front and rear echelons of the mobile 
ASP were protected by a battery each from 
the 197th Antiaircraft Automatic Weapons 
Battalion (Self-propelled). This battalion 
possessed some weapons that were of par- 
ticular interest to the Ordnance Section of 
First Army. They were the M16B half- 
tracks with the quadruple .50-caliber 



18 ( 1 ) Hist 100th Ammunition Bn, pp. 41, 77, 97. 
(2) AGF Bd Rpt No. 1150, USFET, Ordnance 
Questionnaire, 31 Jul 45. (3) First Army Rpt 2, 
Annex 9, pp. 3, 53. (4) FUSA Ord Monthly 
Rpts, Ammunition Supply, Rpt 1-31 Aug 44 and 
Incl "SOP for Motorized Ammunition Supply 
Points," OHF. (5) Orgn Hist 587th Ord Am- 
munition Co, 30 Dec 42-Dec 44. (6) History - 
197th AAA AW Bn (SP), Jun-Dec 44. 



(Quad-50) machine guns, improvised in 
England before the invasion. Sixteen had 
been allotted to each antiaircraft automatic, 
weapons battalion assigned or attached to 
First Army. Lightly armored and clumsy 
though they were, the Mi6B's had distin- 
guished themselves in the beachhead phase, 
not only in antiaircraft defense but as as- 
sault weapons in support of infantry. Be- 
yond the Seine, as the skies began to clear 
of German planes, they were frequently 
used in a ground role and were notably 
effective later on at Aachen. The 197th 
Antiaircraft Automatic Weapons Batta- 
lion, after its support of the mobile ASP 
and a short stay at Le Bourget Airport out- 
side of Paris, was attached to the 71st Ord- 
nance Group on 5 September and con- 
tinued the protection of ASP's established 
beyond the Seine. 17 

The new ammunition depot at La Loupe 
was hardly in operation before the stocks 
had to be moved forward, first to Hirson 
and then to Liege, in Belgium. This move- 
ment required nearly a thousand trucks. 
Quartermaster battalions fell far short of 
this number and had to be helped by trucks 
taken from heavy artillery and antiaircraft 
units temporarily immobilized behind the 
Seine. For the lift from the Seine to Hir- 
son, army Ordnance vehicles of all types 
were used. The 71st Ammunition Group, 
though inexperienced in large-scale truck- 
ing, managed to establish an army ammu- 
nition depot near Liege by 1 1 September. 
Shipments began to come in almost im- 
mediately by rail: for the first time since 



17 ( 1 ) History 197th AAA AW Bn (SP), Jun-Dec 
44. (2) First Army Rpt 1, Annex 11, p. 261. (3) 
Ltr, Medaris to Pattison, 28 Oct 63, OCMH. (4) 
For the conversion of the quad .50-caliber machine 
gun mount M51 to the M16B self-propelled mount, 
see above, p. 228. 




MAP 5 



FIRST ARMY AMMUNITION 
INSTALLATIONS 

6 JUNE TO 16 DECEMBER 1944 



ASP 

ROLLING ASP 
MSR 



10 20 30 40 50 



274 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



D-day First Army had a good railhead 
close to the front. 18 

During the period of breakout and pur- 
Suit in late August and early September, 
there were times when front and rear Ord- 
nance units were 200 miles apart, and at 
one time during the fast advance through 
northern France and Belgium, the distance 
increased to 375 miles. The link that held 
these units together was the radio net that 
Medaris had planned and prepared for 
back in England. He had kept it in oper- 
ation during June and July mainly for 
training purposes, since it had not been 
really needed in the beachhead phase. 
Now it came into its own, saving hours, 
sometimes days, in the transmittal of re- . 
quests and the delivery of critical supplies 
to far-flung combat units and performing 
invaluable services in many ways; for ex- 
ample, ammunition men on the march 
could be directed to establish new ASP's as 
far forward as possible. Above all, the 
radio net provided firm control of all types 
of supplies. Medaris and his staff knew at 
all times what was on hand, where it was, 
and what was needed. 19 

In attempting to get the supplies forward 
in the period of fast pursuit, First Army 
Ordnance men had a taste of battle more 
than once. A maintenance unit delivering 
half-tracks to the combat forces on the 
road to Paris ran into a German column 



18 Hist 1 ooth Ammunition Bn. 

19 ( 1 ) Sams, "Communications in Army Ord- 
nance Service," pp. 48-49. (2) Medaris, "Field 
Service in the First Army," p. 67. (3) Ltr, Me- 
daris to Pattison, 28 Oct 63. (4) First Army Rpt 
2, Annex 9, pp. 14-15. (5) In contrast to the 
reliable information on stocks possessed by First 
Army Ordnance, the lack of such information on 
the part of Third Army Ordnance (which had 
no radio net) was criticized by 12th Army Group 
Ordnance during this period. Entries 26 Aug to 1 1 
Sep 44, Daily Jnl Ord Sec 12th Army Group. 



and lost fifteen men; another, on 29 Au- 
gust near Chartres, captured 48 Germans. 
The men following closely behind XIX 
Corps on its rapid march north to Tournai 
risked even more encounters, for they were 
cutting across one of the main routes of 
the German retreat. On 2 September two 
officers who were making a reconnaissance 
for an ASP, Capt. Allan H. Reed of the 
1 ooth Ammunition Battalion headquarters 
and Maj. Jack C. Heist, XIX Corps am- 
munition officer, were ambushed by Ger- 
man troops near Thiant and both were 
killed, along with the driver of their jeep, 
Technician 4 Zan D. Hassin. 20 

Next day, while Colonel Medaris was 
sitting in his office in a partially wrecked 
building outside Charleroi in Belgium, 
reading the depressing report on the death 
of the ammunition men and their jeep 
driver, he himself had a narrow escape. 
Suddenly the windows were rattled by a 
violent explosion, followed by a deep rum- 
ble that sounded like thunder, though the 
day was warm and sunny. One of the Ger- 
mans' new giant rockets, the V-2, had 
passed over the house and buried itself in 
a ravine nearby. Against the earlier V-i 
— the buzz bomb — antiaircraft guns gave 
some degree of protection, but against this 
monster, carrying a ton of high explosives 
in its nose, there was no defense. Medaris 
reflected that the missile was probably not 
aimed at First Army headquarters. Intel- 
ligence reports had indicated that the Ger- 
mans intended to use the V-2 against cities, 
and Medaris concluded that it had simply 
fallen short of its target. But he now had 



20 ( 1 ) "Report from France," Firepower, vol. I, 
No. 3 (October, 1944), pp. 2-3. (2) Hists, 3456th 
Ord MAM Co and 100th Ammunition Bn. (3) 
Jnl Ord Sec, Annex D to sec IV, AAR Hq XIX 
Corps, 30 Sep 44. 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



275 



firsthand evidence that the V-2 was at last 
operational. After examining the shattered 
fragments of the rocket in the ravine, he 
instructed his technical intelligence officer 
to inform technical intelligence teams in 
the forward area, and combat troops as 
well, of the discovery, and to alert them 
to be on the look-out for V-2 "hardware." 
Medaris then turned his attention to the 
more urgent problem of supplying ammuni- 
tion to the advancing forces." 1 

The ammunition men were doing their 
best to keep up in the race. A day or so 
after the V-2 incident, a party of about 
fifty men of the 57th Ammunition Com- 
pany, commanded by Capt. Jack Carstaph- 
en, routed 47 members of the 22d Gren- 
adier SS Regiment from some barricaded 
farmhouses on the outskirts of Driancourt. 
With the loss of one man, Pvt. Allen John- 
son, killed by a direct grenade hit, and one 
wounded, they killed 35 Germans and cap- 
tured the rest. Such an encounter, a small- 
scale replica of the unexpected VII Corps 
battle at the Mons pocket, was more or 
less accidental. The real resistance on the 
First Army front would come later, at the 
Siegfried Line. 22 

Third Army Ordnance in the Dash 
to the Moselle 

While XV Corps was crossing the Seine 
at Mantes and passing to First Army, Gen- 
eral Patton's two corps to the south, the 
XX and newly formed XII Corps, were 
bypassing Paris. Having cleared the south 



21 ( 1 ) Maj. General John B. Medaris, U.S. Army, 
Ret., Countdown for Decision (New York: G. P. 
Putnam's Sons, i960), pp. 48-52. (2) Hansen In- 
terv. 

^History 57th Ord Ammunition Co, 6 Feb 41- 
31 Mar 45. 



flank along the Loire, the XX Corps with 
the 7th Armored and 5th Infantry Divi- 
sions turned north and liberated Chartrcs 
on 18 August; crossed the Seine and lib- 
erated Reims on 30 August; and by 1 Sep- 
tember was across the Meuse at Verdun. 
The XII Corps, with the 4th Armored 
and 35th Infantry Divisions, left Le Mans 
on 1 5 August and was in Orleans the next 
evening; after a short halt to protect the 
southern flank and wait for supplies to 
come up, it was on its way again. Ad- 
vancing abreast of XX Corps to the south, 
XII Corps had three bridgeheads over the 
Meuse by I September. (See Map 4.) 

This Third Army sweep across France 
was faster than any of the planners had 
anticipated. No sooner had Nixon drawn 
a line beyond which his 69th Group would 
operate — furnishing Ordnance service to 
all troops passing through the forward area, 
providing roadside repair patrols to keep 
the roads clear of wrecks, helping corps to 
set up collecting points for damaged ma- 
teriel and captured weapons — than the line 
would have to be moved eastward again. 
Nixon himself, visiting corps to straighten 
out administrative tangles in his forward 
battalions or dashing back to Laval to 12th 
Army Group to get help on supply, was on 
the road most of the time. Because of the 
long supply lines and very fluid situation, 
the combat troops had been authorized to 
carry ammunition in excess of their basic 
loads, using Quartermaster trucks, for it 
was extremely hard for the ammunition 
trains to catch up. Sometimes ammuni- 
tion convoys were diverted to points as 
much as 20 miles beyond their original 
destinations and when they arrived at a 
new area they would have to wait while 
it was cleared of enemy troops. Often the 



276 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



first stocks for an ASP would remain on 
wheels for three or four days. 23 

The 573d Ammunition Company sup- 
porting XX Corps operated a rolling ASP 
of about 500 tons from 28 August to 2 
September, issuing from its trucks direct to 
using units. Crossing the Marne at Fon- 
tainebleau on 30 August the company 
"rolled," according to its historian, "into 
the Wine incident." Near La Neuville the 
men saw a soldier coming out of a large 
cave carrying a case of wine. Jumping 
out of the trucks, they raided the cave (over 
the halfhearted protests of their lieutenant) 
and loaded up. "Then the 'Rolling ASP' 
rolled on. Half of the wine was given 
away to the French people and other 'GFs' 
along the highway but there was enough 
left in the Company for four 6x6 trucks to 
haul." After "a wineful night" at La 
Neuville, the company went on 200 miles 
to set up an ASP near a World War I 
cemetery at Dombasle-en-Argonne, five 
miles behind a hot fight at Verdun. A 
squadron of German fighter planes roared 
in on the tail of the convoy but did no 
damage. The ASP was soon set up with 
the help of a hundred truckloads of am- 
munition from a big depot just established 
at Nemours, in the forest south of Fontaine- 
bleau. 24 

The forward maintenance battalions be- 
hind XX and XII Corps had the problems 
that had arisen in the earlier experience 
behind XV Corps at Argentan. The bat- 
talion commanders had to move their com- 



23 ( 1 ) Third Army Rpt II, Ord Sec, pp. 7-8, 10. 
(2) Slaughter Rpt, pp. 4-5, 20. Nixon's staff, like 
Medaris', had been augmented in England. USFET 
Bd Rpt 101, p. 4. 

24 ( 1 ) History 573d Ammunition Co, ETO 
Ord Sec Histories, KCRC; (2) Third Army Rpt 
vol. II, Ord, p. 12. 



panies so fast that there was not time to 
clear each movement with the commander 
of the 69th Ordnance Group. After a con- 
ference on 3 1 August with the commander 
of the 185th Battalion behind XII Corps, 
the group commander, and the corps Ord- 
nance officer, Nixon decided that army 
would establish the general direction of the 
movement and the battalion commander 
would disperse the companies forward on 
the request of the corps Ordnance officer. 25 

It was hard to keep the intermediate 
battalions close enough behind the forward 
battalions to be of much help, especially 
since Nixon (unlike Medaris) had no radio 
net to enable the group commander to keep 
in close touch with his far-flung forces. 
One intermediate antiaircraft maintenance 
company, the 305th, spent the last week of 
August bivouacked on a steep hill near 
Pinthiviers, accessible only by roads too 
primitive to take heavy equipment. No 
work came in. An object of great curiosity 
to the French farmers, who came in droves 
every day to stare at them, the men spent 
their time swimming in a stream nearby, 
"card playing, and cooking as we had by 
this time started to trade for eggs and po- 
tatoes and the odor of French fries hung 
over the area at all times." The idyll was 
over on 3 1 August, when the company was 
dispatched across the Seine a hundred miles 
to Sommesous. Some of the heavy mainte- 
nance companies in the intermediate bat- 
talions were not sent forward but were 
transferred to the Third Army rear echelon 
group to help in the vehicle shops. 26 

By the end of August Nixon had brought 
his rear group— his heavy shops and main 



25 XII Corps Jnls, Ord Jnl, 31 Aug 44. 
20 Histories, 305th Maint Co (Antiaircraft) ; go2d 
Heavy Auto Maint Co, ETO Ord Sec, KCRC. 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



277 




General Patton and Colonel Nixon 



army depots — more than a hundred miles 
forward, from Le Mans to the forest south 
of Fontainebleau. The group had gained 
considerable experience in a io-day stay 
at Le Mans, where for the first time the 
men had encountered vehicles damaged by 
use rather than enemy action. At Nixon's 
direction they had set up a control point, 
to which all material meant for repair, ex- 
change, and salvage was taken and then 
assigned to maintenance companies, so that 
the flow of work was regulated and con- 
trolled. This experience was invaluable 
when they got to Fontainebleau, for there, 
as one battalion commander later remem- 
bered, "the maintenance job really began 
to bloom." Into the control point a 



steady stream of wreckers dragged enormous 
quantities of tanks, trucks, and weapons 
damaged by enemy guns and mines and by 
hard wear in the fast pursuit. To do the 
big repair job the mechanics cannibalized 
to the utmost, for Third Army still lacked 
its basic load of spare parts. The unex- 
pectedly heavy demand for tracks on light 
tanks, tires for the tank transporters, parts 
for artillery, and motors for medium tanks 
could not be met at all, and awaited more 
support from the rear. 27 



27 ( i ) Gibson Interv in Hines History. (2) His- 
tories, 904th HAM Co, 889th HAM Co, ETO Ord 
Sec, KCRC. (3) Third Army Rpt vol. II, Ord, p. 
9. (4) Third Army G-4 Rpts 29 Aug, 5 Sep 44. 
12th AG 319.1 G-4 Rpts (TUSA) vol. I. 



278 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



The rapid advance of the Third Army 
had stretched the line of communications 
from about 50 miles on 1 August to more 
than 400 miles by 1 September. COMZ, 
with headquarters at Valognes on the 
Cotentin peninsula until the move to Paris 
in mid-September, had been able to get 
only three base sections opened : Normandy 
Base Section in the Cherbourg area; Brit- 
tany Base Section in the rear of VIII 
Corps; and Seine Base Section in Paris, 
which was concerned mainly with the ad- 
ministration of civil relief and the supply 
of COMZ installations in the city. The 
first week in September two base sections 
that might have been more immediately 
useful to Third Army were activated (in 
addition to Channel Base Section in the 
Le Havre-Rouen area) — Oise at Fon- 
tainebleau and Loire at Orleans, but in this 
early period they had all they could do to 
support their own units. The bulk of sup- 
plies still lay in the Cherbourg and beach 
areas; the railways that might have carried 
them eastward to the Seine had been pret- 
ty well knocked out by American bombers. 

The fast Red Ball truck operation in- 
augurated by Brig. Gen. Ewart G. Plank 
of ADSEC with the remark, "Let it never 
be said that ADSEC stopped Patton when 
the Germans couldn't," 28 brought 89,000 
tons of supplies from beaches to army 
dumps in the Chartres-La Loupe-Dreux 
triangle between 25 August and 5 Septem- 
ber but most of this cargo consisted of 
rations, gasoline, and ammunition. 20 For 
spare parts and other maintenance needs, 



the forward Ordnance depots had to de- 
pend on the cargo space in replacement 
vehicles. New trucks and jeeps were loaded 
with spare parts at the beaches and driven 
to Fontainebleau by men from replacement 
companies sent to Third Army from Eng- 
land. Replacement tanks, hauled by tank 
transporters in order to conserve tracks, 
arrived with spare tracks wrapped around 
them. ADSEC helped when it could, but 
for a great many of his supplies Nixon had 
to send Third Army trucks and tank trans- 
porters all the way back to Cherbourg. 
The journey of three days or more over 
congested roads was made even harder by 
the gasoline shortage. The trucks of the 
main armament depot company had to 
travel 250 miles back to the beach in order 
to get gasoline to haul weapons from Cher- 
bourg. 30 About this time General Patton 
heard a rumor which he "officially . . . 
hoped was not true" that his Ordnance 
men were passing themselves off as mem- 
bers of First Army in order to draw gas- 
oline from First Army dumps. He com- 
mented, "To reverse the statement made 
about the Light Brigade, this is not war 
but it is magnificent." 31 

After a halt of five days because of the 
gas shortage in early September, Patton's 
army continued its advance toward the 
Saar. It was stopped at the Moselle on 25 
September by Eisenhower's decision to im- 
mobilize Third Army in order to throw all 



^Interv, Lt Col V. H. Williams Jr., Transporta- 
tion Sec ADSEC, by William M. Hines, Sr., in 
Hines Hist, vol. II, p. 319. 

20 For a breakdown on Red Ball tonnages 25 
August-5 September, see COMZ G-4 Hist III, 
pp. 3, 7, Admin 553. 



30 (1) Nixon Interv. (2) Third Army Rpt II, 
G-4, p. 12, Ord Sec, p. 9. (3) Third Army G-4 
Rpts, 29 Aug 44, 1 2th Army Gp 319' G-4 Rpts 
(TUSA), vol. 1. (4) Rpt of Lt Col Nathan B. 
Chenault, Supply Officer Ord Sec COMZ, quoted 
in Hines History, vol. II, p. 334. (5) Histories 
3537th Ord Medium Automotive Maint Co, 458th, 
471st, 489th Evacuation Cos, and 344th Depot Co, 
ETOOrdSec,KCRC. 

■" Patton, War As I Knew It, p. 1 25. 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



279 




550th Heavy Maintenance Company, Verdun 



support to the drive to the Ruhr in the 
north by the British and the First U.S. 
Army. When Patton's advance was 
stopped, XII Corps had crossed the Moselle 
at Nancy and established a bridgehead 
beyond. The XV Corps, which had by 
then returned to Third Army from First 
Army and was protecting the southern 
flank, was beyond the river at Charmes 
and was abreast of XII Corps in the neigh- 
borhood of Luneville. On the northern 
part of Third Army's front, XX Corps had 
a bridgehead at Arnaville, but had been 
unable to take the heavily fortified city of 
Metz. Thereafter, restricted to limited 
objective attacks, the army could do little 
until November, when the offensive was 
resumed. Across the Lorraine border in 



Germany, Patton was slowed down by the 
Siegfried Line and by the increasing short- 
ages in men, ammunition, and tanks. 32 

By mid-September Nixon's rear group 
was on the move again, from Fontaine- 
bleau to the Moselle, some 225 miles east, 
where Third Army was besieging Metz in 
an area that was studded with place names 
recalling World War I — Verdun, St. Mi- 
hiel, the Argonne. Nixon did not move 
all the companies forward at once, but 
with the help of ADSEC employed a 
leapfrogging system that he was to use ef- 



32 (1) Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 423. (2) 
For Third Army operations 1 Sep- 15 Dec 44, see 
H. M. Cole, The Lorraine Campaign, UNITED 
STATES ARMY IN WORLD WAR II (Washing- 
ton, 1950). 



280 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



fectively for the rest of the campaign in 
Europe. He sent a maintenance company 
of his rear group into the forward area to 
work in each collecting point and to repair 
materiel, if possible, rather than subject it 
to further damage by evacuation. When 
this company moved on, it left its un- 
finished work to be taken over by a com- 
pany from a rear control point. The sec- 
ond company left its unfinished work to 
an ADSEC maintenance company that 
had been assisting it at the control point. 33 
During the lull in operations beginning 
in mid-September, Nixon was able to or- 
ganize a group for ammunition supply, the 
82 d, using men from the headquarters of 
his 313th Battalion, which had been act- 
ing as a group until that time. Another 
innovation in Third Army ammunition 
supply that took place about this time was 
the use of roadside storage. This strung 
out the ASP's, increasing the total mileage, 
and hampered operations in areas far for- 
ward when tactical units had to use the 
roads. For example, it took an armored 
division two whole days to pass through the 
ASP of one company, causing the ammuni- 
tion men (according to their historian) 
"very much grief and sorrow," but road- 
side storage took the dumps out of fields 
that were every day becoming deeper and 
deeper in mud. 34 



33 (1) Third Army Rpt vol. II, Ord, p. 10; (2) 
Nixon Interv. 

* ( 1 ) Msg, AGWAR, from Marshall, to ETO- 
USA to Eisenhower, 25 Aug 44, WAR — 84540; 
Ltr, Eisenhower to CG 12th Army Gp, 11 Sep 44, 
sub: Activation of 82d Headquarters and Head- 
quarters Detachment, Ordnance Group; and Me- 
mos, 1 2 th Army Gp Ord for G-4, and G-4 for 
G-3, 19 Sep 44. All in 12th Army Gp 322 Ord- 
nance Units. (2) History, 82d Ord Gp, 27 Sep-Dec 
44. (3) Histories, 573d, 574th, 620th Ammunition 
Companies. 



The fine weather that had made Fon- 
tainebleau so attractive (along with the first 
post exchange issue, first mail, and, for 
most of the men, a day's visit to Paris) 
continued only a week or so in Lorraine. 
Toward the end of September the autumn 
rains began. The men were operating their 
shops and dumps in the open, for Patton 
had never permitted them to use garages 
or other shelters in towns, fearing that they 
would lose their mobility, but French mud, 
as much a reminder of World War I as the 
trenches that still gashed the fields, soon 
made work all but impossible. Trucks had 
to be winched out of it and jacks sank. 
Rain filled foxholes and soaked clothing. 
Men's fingers were numb with cold. By 
October the decision to stay in the open 
had to be rescinded. There was a scram- 
ble for shelter in the towns, all units com- 
peting for factories, garages, stables, and 
the French barracks or caserns that were 
numerous in this fortress region. The for- 
ward battalions found buildings around 
Pont-a-Mousson and the rear were divided 
among St. Mihiel, Commercy, Toul, Neuf- 
chateau, and Nancy. Many of the build- 
ings were in bad shape, without roofs or 
windows, between German demolitions and 
U.S. bomber attacks, but the Ordnance 
mechanics knew how to repair the damage, 
and even manufactured stoves as winter 
came on. After the Ardennes breakthrough 
in December, units moved on to Luxem- 
bourg, but some of the rear companies 
went into even better accommodations at 
Metz and stayed until spring. 35 

35 (1) Unit Histories ETO Ord Sec, KCRC. 
(2) Gibson Interv, in Hines History, vol. Ill, pp. 
427-29, OHF. Gibson, noting that mud was bad 
all the way back to the ADSEC area, told of the 
order from a general to the commander of the 
78th Ordnance Battalion (ADSEC) to "get rid of 
the dirty mud." Ibid., p. 427. 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



281 




Inspecting Duckbill Extensions on Tank Tracks 



During the fall of 1944, working within 
sound of the big guns blasting away on the 
Third Army front between Metz and 
Verdun, the Ordnance men tried to re- 
pair the damage done in the race across 
France and to get Patton's army ready 
for the next offensive. To give the tanks 
better flotation in the mud, they widened 
tracks by welding to the end connectors 
four-inch-square metal cleats called duck- 
bills or duckfeet. Back in Paris, Commu- 
nications Zone had contracted with French 
plants to do the job, but the effort re- 
quired to send the end connectors (there 
were 164 on each medium tank track) to 



the factories made it simpler for Third 
Army to do a great deal of the work in its 
own shops, obtaining the metal cleats from 
local manufacturers. Much needed help 
with tank engines came from the Gnome- 
Rhone works in Paris, which by October 
was well into production on engine over- 
haul, thanks to an early September con- 
tract with First Army. This contract was 
later taken over by Communications Zone. 
Increasing COMZ support, the opening of 
ADSEC shops in Verdun, better rail service 
from the ports, and cannibalization and 
the conversion of captured German weap- 
ons made it possible for Third Army to 



282 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



make up most of its losses in tanks and 
weapons by December. 36 

Trucks were another matter. The story 
of the automotive maintenance men con- 
tinued to be a story of "sweat and grease, 
of engines and axles, of wrecks and re- 
pairs." 3T Most of the wrecks came from 
the Quartermaster truck companies operat- 
ing Red Ball and other emergency hauling 
projects. The heavy cost of the Red Ball 
operation, which had been extended until 
1 6 November in order to move 315,225 
long tons from Normandy to forward de- 
pots or to Paris for transfer to trains, was 
becoming all too plain. In the belief that 
the war would soon be over, Communica- 
tions Zone had tacitly but deliberately aban- 
doned preventive maintenance in the inter- 
est of speed and was admittedly paying "a 
terrific price." 38 

Careless drivers and reckless drivers fired 
by "push 'em up there" slogans had run 
their trucks day and night at high speeds 
over rough roads without giving them even 
the most elementary care. The trucks had 
been badly overloaded: the 2/2 -ton trucks 
had been made to carry six to ten tons. 
Overloading was ruinous to axles and hard 
on tires. Tires were already badly dam- 
aged from lack of care and the condition 
of the roads, which had become doubly 
hazardous from the jagged metal of C 
ration cans that the troops had thrown 
away. 39 



30 (i)Ord Serv ETO, Local Procurement and 
Industrial Service, pp. 47-59, 73-86, OHF; (2) 
Unit Histories, ETO Ord Sec, KCRC; (3) Third 
Army G-4 Rpts Sep-Dec 44, 12th AG 31 9.1 G-4 
Rpt (TUSA), vol. I. 

37 History 993d HAM Co, ETO Ord Sec, KCRC. 

M COMZ G-4 History, sec. Ill, pp. 10, 15, 
Admin 553. 

30 ( 1 ) Ibid., pp. 33-45; (2) Intervs, Brig Gen 
James H. Stratton, COMZ G-4; Col James Mc- 



Tires for trucks and jeeps were scarce 
all over the world. Any real help on the 
problem in the ETO had to await the out- 
put of French factories that were just get- 
ting into operation as 1944 ended. No 
production in quantity could be expected 
for several months — not until bomb-dam- 
aged plants were repaired and raw mate- 
rials delivered. The men in Third Army 
and ADSEC rounded up spares, robbed 
1 -ton trailers and even 37-mm. gun car- 
riages, and did their best to save repairable 
tires with the meager amount of tire repair 
equipment they had. Until January 1945 
the theater had only one tire repair com- 
pany, the 158th, with enough equipment 
to operate. The company was split into 
six teams: two teams were attached to 
First Army, two to Third Army, and two 
remained with ADSEC. 40 

The idea of using small mobile tire re- 
pair units of one officer and 14 men (rather 
than companies) to go to the trucks and 
repair minor damage before it became 
major had been handed to the Ordnance 
Department by Quartermaster along with 
the responsibility for trucks in the summer 
of 1942. Nothing was done about it until 

Cormack, Jr., Movements Br, G-4, 12th AG; by 
William M. Hines, Sr., in Hines History, vol. II, 
pp. 308, 341, 428-29. (3) Third Army G-4 Rpts, 
Oct-Dec 44, 1 2th AG 31 9.1 G-4 Rpts (TUSA) 
vol. 1. (4) USFET Bd Rpt No. 97, Operation of 
Ordnance Roadside Service Stations, p. 8. 

40 ( 1 ) For Ordnance tire procurement in France 
(which, along with rebuild of tank and truck en- 
gines and the manufacture of duckbills, constituted 
the three major Ordnance local procurement pro- 
grams), see Ord Serv ETO, Local Procurement and 
Industrial Service, pp. 88-102, OHF. (2) COMZ 
G-4 History, sec. V, p. 48, Admin 553. (3) History 
ADSEC Ordnance, p. 18, ETO Ord Sec, KCRC. 
(4) The 156th Tire Repair Company arrived in 
southern France to support Seventh Army in October 
1944, but had to wait for its equipment. Capt. Shel- 
ton C. Till, "Rubber Men," Firepower, vol. II, No. 1 
(June-July 1945), PP- 8-9- 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



283 



the fall of 1943, when experience in the 
Mediterranean, especially with the damage 
done to tires by the lava roads in Sicily, 
pointed the need for some change of sys- 
tem. Thereafter, it took a year of study, 
consultation, authorization, the develop- 
ment of electrical equipment, the prepara- 
tion of a TOE, and tests, before procure- 
ment was even begun. In the meantime, 
the six teams of the 158th Tire Repair 
Company augmented their supplies with 
synthetic material captured from the Ger- 
mans or bought locally, and improvised the 
extra equipment they needed. They made 
(according to the ADSEC Ordnance his- 
torian) "one of the most spectacular rec- 
ords of achievement in Ordnance Service." 41 
For truck and jeep parts, the Third 
Army Ordnance men combed collection 
points to obtain the most critical items — 
axles, transfer cases, and steering assem- 
blies. Nixon sent searchers all the way 
back to Cherbourg, since as late as mid- 
December more than half of all Class II 
and IV supplies were still in Normandy and 
Brittany because of the priority that had 
been given to ammunition, food, and gaso- 
line on the move forward. When parts 
were not available at all, Nixon's 79th Bat- 
talion employed French firms to make 
them, or made them in its own shops. The 
ingenuity of American mechanics was am- 
ply demonstrated in this area as in many 
others; for example, they made a tool for 



straightening bent axles and adapted Brit- 
ish axles to American vehicles. One inter- 
esting example of ingenuity was a mag- 
netic road sweep to be used by an Engineer 
construction battalion in clearing roads of 
the jagged metal litter so damaging to 
tires. 42 

Around Christmas, Third Army Ord- 
nance men got some help on truck and jeep 
parts from a neighbor. In exchange for 
40,000 duckbills, they received a quantity 
of brake hose and lining for trucks and 
distributor rotors and carburetors for jeeps 
from Seventh Army, which had just ex- 
tended its western boundary to St. Avoid in 
order to support Third Army during the 
German counteroffensive in the Ardennes. 
Seventh Army, mounted in Italy and landed 
near Marseille in Operation Dragoon on 
15 August 1944, had come north up the 
Rhone Valley in an advance comparable 
to First and Third Armies' race across 
France. 43 

Seventh Army in Southern France 

A landing in southern France — first 
called Anvil, later Dragoon — was during 
most of 1942 considered by American plan- 
ners an integral part of the cross-Channel 
attack. A force mounted in the Mediter- 
ranean theater was to land in the Mar- 
seille-Toulon-Riviera area on the Norman- 
dy D-day, drawing off German divisions 



41 (1) History ADSEC Ordnance, p. 18. (2) 
OCO, Requirements, Development, Production, 
Distribution and Conservation of Tires for Army 
Motor Vehicles — 1 942-1 945 (Project Supporting 
Paper No. 53), vol. I, ch. V, pt. 3, Mobile Tire 
Repair Platoon, OHF. (3) Memo, Ord APO 871 
for Chief Ord Officer APO 887, 19 Dec 43, Folder 
Theaters Europe (ETO) Jan 43 to Dec 44. (4) Ltr, 
Holmes to CofOrd, 16 May 44, sub: Comments on 
Mobile Tire Repair Platoons, O.O. 451.92/4652. 



42 ( 1 ) Gibson Interv in Hines History, vol. Ill, 
pp. 428-29. (2) Unit Histories, ETO Ord Sec, 
KCRC. (3) Third Army G-4 Rpts, Oct-Dec 44, 
1 2th AG 3 1 9. 1 G-4 Rpts (TUSA), vol. I. 

43 (1) Third Army G-4 Rpts, 26 Dec 44, 12th 
AG 3 1 9. 1 G-4 Rpts (TUSA), vol. I. (2) Report 
of Operations, he Seventh United States Army in 
France and Germany 1 944-1 945 (Heidelberg, 1946) 
(hereafter cited as Seventh Army Rpt 1944-45), 
II, 495- 



284 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



from the Normandy invasion and forming 
a pincers with First Army. The British 
had never been enthusiastic about the oper- 
ation, for they disliked the thought of 
weakening the drive in Italy, and in the 
early spring of 1944, after the stalemate at 
Anzio and Cassino, they began actively to 
oppose it. But the American planners, 
from President Roosevelt down, never 
wavered in their determination to make the 
landing in southern France. The only 
change they would agree to was a post- 
ponement, and this was dictated late in 
March by necessity. Landing craft were 
too scarce to permit an attack in southern 
France simultaneous with the cross-Chan- 
nel attack. 

It was argued that Dragoon would sup- 
port Overlord ; open the large port of Mar- 
seille; and give the French army now being 
equipped in the Mediterranean a share in 
the liberation of France. These arguments 
did not move Churchill, who continued to 
oppose Dragoon, preferring to keep the 
forces in Italy strong enough to go on to 
Istria and Trieste. Montgomery at last 
endorsed Dragoon, but halfheartedly. He 
came later to consider it "one of the great- 
est strategic mistakes of the war." 44 

Though the trumpet, on the British side 
at least, gave an uncertain sound, AFHQ 
prepared for the battle. Planning began 



41 ( 1 ) Robert Ross Smith and Richard Kugler, 
Riviera to the Rhine, chs. I and II, MS in prepara- 
tion for UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD 
WAR II. Unless otherwise noted, this section is based 
on this manuscript. (2) Marshall Interv of 25 Jul 
49- (3) Winston S. Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy 
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1953), pp. 
57-71. (4) Vigneras, Rearming the French, p. 
119. (5) The Memoirs of Field-Marshal the Vis- 
count Montgomery of Alamein, K.G. (Cleveland 
and New York: World Publishing Co., 1958), p. 
199 



at Algiers on 12 January 1944 in a ram- 
bling white building on a hill overlooking 
the city, the Ecole Normale of Bouzareah, 
behind a high security fence of rusty 
barbed wire. The planning staff, known 
as Force 163, was mainly composed of 
officers brought from Seventh Army head- 
quarters in Palermo, for the Seventh was 
to be the American army in the invasion. 
On this staff the Ordnance representative 
was Colonel Nixon. A week or so later 
Rear 163, a small staff of logistical 
planners, was established in a department 
store in Oran, and here the chief Ordnance 
planner was Lt. Col. Herbert P. Scho- 
walter, who had been Nixon's supply of- 
ficer in Palermo. 45 

According to plans developed for 
Dragoon in the spring of 1944, three 
crack American infantry divisions — the 
3d, 36th, and 45th — were to be brought 
from Italy and organized under VI Corps 
with General Truscott as commander. 
Dragoon would also have one mixed 
British and U.S. airborne task force. The 
French, coming in after D-day, were to 
contribute seven divisions, under the 
1 st French Army. 

The Seventh Army commander was 
Maj. Gen. Alexander M. Patch, a new- 
comer to the theater, but well known for 
his Guadalcanal campaign. He had been 
in command of IV Corps, then in train- 
ing in the United States, and he brought 
with him to Africa IV Corps officers to fill 
the Seventh Army staff positions left 
vacant when Patton went to England. 
General Patch arrived in March. His 
Ordnance officer, Col. Edward W. Smith, 



45 (1) Nixon Interv. (2) Ltr, Herbert P. Scho- 
walter to Lida Mayo, 27 Jan 64, OCMH. 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



285 



joined Seventh Army Ordnance at Oran 
in April. 40 

By the time Colonel Smith arrived, the 
Ordnance plans for the invasion of south- 
ern France were well along. They had 
been initiated by the Ordnance AFHQ 
staff in Algiers under Lt. Col. William H. 
Connerat, Jr., who had become acting 
Ordnance officer of AFHQ after Colonel 
Crawford's departure for the United 
States. His principal assistant was Craw- 
ford's executive, Lt. Col. Henry L. 
McGrath. Both men were thoroughly 
experienced. Connerat as Crawford's 
supply officer had been lent to Colonel 
Nixon for the Sicily Campaign and had 
made a careful study of the operations in 
Sicily, a study that was used in the plan- 
ning for Salerno. McGrath was a vet- 
eran of three landings — Fedala, Sicily, 
and Salerno; in the Salerno landings he 
had commanded the Avalanche main- 
tenance battalion. 

Using Salerno as a guide, Connerat 
and McGrath computed basic loads and 
initial stocks of ammunition, major items, 
and spare parts, and figured troop re- 
quirements for Dragoon. They were 
well aware from their own experience 
how important it was to get ammunition 
men, DUKW mechanics, and depot de- 
tachments on the beachhead as early as 
possible. For the move inland after the 
landing, they planned to support Seventh 
Army and ist French Army with one am- 
munition battalion, the 62 d, and two 
maintenance and supply groups — the 55th 
Ordnance Group for forward, third eche- 



lon work and the 54th in the rear for 
supply, evacuation, and fourth echelon 
repair. McGrath himself was to com- 
mand the 55th Ordnance Group, and he 
hand-picked his battalions and companies 
from veterans of the Mediterranean cam- 
paigns. These AFHQ plans were turned 
over to Force 163. Nixon departed for 
Europe in April 1944, and the final plan- 
ning, based on the AFHQ plans, was done 
by Colonel Scho waiter in Oran. After the 
liberation of Rome in June, the troop list 
for the invasion became firm; VI Corps 
was moved down to Salerno for training, 
and in July AFHQ and Seventh Army 
planners went to Italy to supervise the 
mounting of Dragoon from Naples. 47 



Air be 



Ordnai 



Me? 



During the familiar flurry of preparing 
for another invasion, there was one new 
element — the training of airborne Ord- 
nance men. In the Normandy landings, 
Ordnance support troops did not accom- 
pany the paratroopers but followed by sea. 
In Dragoon the Ordnance men would go 
in by glider with the ist Airborne Task 
Force, which was to be dropped behind the 
beach on D-day. The men selected came 
from the 3d Ordnance Medium Mainte- 



40 ( 1 ) Seventh Army Rpt 1944-45, I> 1-12. (2) 
Brig. Gen. Edward W. Smith, "Ordnance in Seventh 
Army," Army Ordnance, XXIX, 151 (July-August 
1945), p. 66. 



47 ( 1 ) History Ord Service MTO, V, ch. V, 
101-02, 174-76, and app. 22 to ch. VII, Ordnance 
in the North African and Mediterranean Theater 
of Operations as Recalled by Colonel Connerat 
(hereafter cited as Connerat Memoir), OHF. (2) 
Intervs, Crawford, 3 Jun 56, Col McGrath, 8 May 
57, and Col W. H. Connerat (USA Ret.), 14 
Aug 64. (3) Hq Force 163, Annex 4 to Ord Admin 
Instrs 1, p. 2, in AGF Bd Rpt, ETO, No. 761, G-4 
Matters, 25 Mar 45, 4-3.761/45 (12866). (4) Con- 
nerat, ist Ind to Ltr, Pattison to Connerat, 12 Sep 
63. (5) At one point in the later planning phase, 
Colonel McGrath flew to England to arrange for 
quick transport of weapons to Naples. David Com- 
ments. 



286 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



nance Company, the second oldest Ord- 
nance outfit, which had supported the 3d 
Infantry ("The Marne") Division in 
World War I and again in Sicily in World 
War II. From a detachment of two 
officers and sixty-nine enlisted men who 
were sent in mid-July to the Airborne 
Training Center near Rome to service pack 
artillery, clean and issue small arms, in- 
stall wire cutters on jeeps, and mount 
stretcher racks on jeep hoods, an advance 
echelon of two officers and twenty-five men 
was selected to fly in with the paratroopers 
and support them for the first seven days, 
until the rear echelon could come in by 
sea. 48 

This advance echelon of twenty-five men 
was to be split into three seven-man teams, 
each team equipped with a jeep and a 
quarter-ton trailer loaded with 750 pounds 
of parts and tools. On landing, each team 
would join one of the three 1st Airborne 
Task Force combat teams. Of the four 
men not on the teams two were to operate 
ammunition points upon landing and two 
were to accompany Maj. Christian B. Hass, 
task force Ordnance officer, and 1st Lt. 
Max E. Clark, commanding officer of the 
detachment, to set up a resupply point and 
perform liaison. The first week in August 
the men of the "airborne" group were sent 
to Marcigliano for three days of glider 
training, to learn how to load their jeeps 
and trailers aboard the glider and lash 
them down so that they would not break 



48 ( 1 ) For Ordnance support of 101st Airborne 
Division in Overlord, see History 801st Airborne 
Ord Maint Co for Oct 42-45. (2) History 1st 
Airborne Task Force, Opn and Supporting Docs, 
1 07-81. 4 (18564 5 Aug 44). (3) "Second Oldest," 
Firepower, II, No. i (June-July 1945), n.p. (4) 
History 3d Ord Medium Maint Co, 15 Feb 1918- 
Dec 1944. (5) History 1st Det 3d Ord Medium 
Maint Co, Aug, 15 Sep 44. 



loose during flight. After this course they 
were given orientation flights and, finally, 
one practice landing. The men's excite- 
ment over the new experience mounted 
when they received orders making them 
bona fide glider troops, entitled to flight 
pay. They also acquired during training 
a mascot that their commanding officer 
described as "a congenial monkey." 
Having "distinguished himself greatly in 
the knots and lashings course," the monkey 
was inducted into the Army and christened 
"Jeepo." 49 

Jeepo was aboard when the seven gliders 
carrying the Ordnance men soared aloft 
from Lido di Roma airfield on the after- 
noon of D-day, 15 August, towed by a 
C-47 bound for France. Each of three 
gliders carried a jeep and one or two of the 
men ; four carried a trailer and six or seven 
men each. The four-hour flight over the 
blue sea was smooth and uneventful. 
Fifteen minutes after they passed the coast 
line of France, which the men recognized 
by the breakers far below, they spotted 
their landing sites, very familiar from the 
aerial maps they had studied during train- 
ing. They were over enemy territory but 
luckily there was no flak, only a lurch as 
the tow ropes parted. 

Some of the gliders were damaged in the 
landing; several lost a wing when they 
struck a tree or another grounded glider, 
and the one carrying two men and Jeepo 
lost its undercarriage and most of its nose. 
No one was injured, however, and after 
a night in a wood exposed to German 
machine rifle and artillery fire, the Ord- 



40 ( 1 ) History 1st Det 3d Ord Medium Maint 
Co, Aug, 15 Sep 44. (2) Opn Rpt 1st Airborne 
Task Force, 15 Jul-Sep 44, Sec I, 107-81. 2. (3) 
History 1st Airborne Task Force, Opn and Sup- 
porting Docs, p. 8, 107-81. 4. 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



287 



nance teams with their jeeps and trailers 
joined their combat teams. They went to 
work at once, repairing pack howitzers, 
sights, small arms, jeeps, and captured ve- 
hicles and collecting plane-dropped ammu- 
nition, which they delivered under fire to 
the howitzer batteries. Enemy opposition 
was generally light, for the Germans had 
been surprised by the airborne landings and 
had been unable to bring up reserves. On 
17 August the three Ordnance teams 
moved into a German quartermaster depot, 
acquired a German truck and sedan, and 
were able to make contact with the 3405th 
Ordnance Medium Automotive Mainte- 
nance Company on the beach. 50 

The Fast Pursuit up the Rhone 

The landings on the three beaches, be- 
ginning at 0800 on 15 August, had been 
remarkably successful. The Ordnance 
planners at AFHQ considered them "text- 
book landings" — the best yet achieved in 
the Mediterranean. The timing was ex- 
cellent. The German defenses were 
nothing like as formidable as in Norman- 
dy, the weather was fine, and the water 
was so shallow in most places that the 
waterproofing that had been applied was 
not needed. When Colonel McGrath 
arrived at the pink villa near the beach at 
Ste. Maxime where he had arranged to 
meet the VI Corps Ordnance officer, Col. 
Walter G. Jennings, at 0812, he found 
Jennings waiting with his watch in his 



50 (1) History 1st Det 3d Ord Medium Maint 
Co. (2) Hist, 1st Airborne Task Force, Opn and 
Supporting Docs. (3) Opn Rpt, 1st Airborne Task 
Force 15 Jul-Sep 44, Sec III. (4) Lecture, Harris 
W. Hollis, The Operations of the First Airborne 
Task Force in the Invasion of Southern France ■ — 
15-20 August 1944 . . ., Armed Forces Staff College 
Library. 



hand. It showed that McGrath was ex- 
actly two minutes late. 51 

Attached to the 40th Engineer Regi- 
ment during the landings, McGrath and 
several members of his 55th Ordnance 
Group headquarters acted as observers and 
advisers at Ste. Maxime for a week, then 
moved forty-five miles inland to Brignoles 
to wait for the rest of the staff, who arrived 
with the executive officer, Lt. Col. Marshall 
S. David, on 27 August. By then, the 
forward army Ordnance companies (or- 
ganized temporarily under the 45th Ord- 
nance Battalion) supporting the three in- 
fantry divisions and VI Corps were accom- 
panying the combat forces on their rapid 
march up the Rhone Valley in pursuit of 
the retreating German Nineteenth Army. 
It was 31 August before group headquar- 
ters, traveling some 178 miles in a single 
day, caught up with them at Crest, just 
northeast of Montelimar, and it was there 
that the 55th Ordnance Group was organ- 
ized. It was composed of the 45th Ord- 
nance Battalion with the 14th, 45th, and 
46th Medium Maintenance Companies, 
and the 43d Battalion. The 43d, which 
consisted of an antiaircraft medium main- 
tenance company, the 261st, a field army 
heavy maintenance company, the 87th, and 
a medium automotive maintenance com- 
pany, the 343 2d, had the task of support- 
ing corps and army troops. Also attached 
to the group, but for operations only, were 
three French Ordnance battalions, now 



51 (1) Truscott, Command Missions, p. 414. (2) 
Eric Sevareid, Not So Wild A Dream (New York: 
A. A. Knopf, 1946), p. 439. (3) Connerat Memoir. 
(4) Ltr, Maj L. Ballard to Chief Ord Officer 
NATOUSA, 4 Sep 44, sub: Observations in Ord- 
nance Service and Supply in Southern France, Fol- 
der 319.1-1944, OCO-D Field Service Opns. (5) 
McGrath Interv. 



288 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



advancing up the west bank of the Rhone 
with elements of French Army B. The 
French army had landed after Seventh 
Army and was mainly engaged in opening 
Toulon and Marseilles- 
Like the medium maintenance com- 
panies, the army ammunition companies 
outstripped their controlling headquarters 
(the 62d Ordnance Ammunition Bat- 
talion), since they had been attached 
to the divisions on 20 August and had 
moved forward with them. This attach- 
ment was essential during the period of 
rapid pursuit, because the divisions carried 
a large supply of ammunition in addition 
to basic loads. By 27 August army had a 
sizable ASP in operation inland at Aix-en- 
Provence; and by 1 September the most 
forward ammunition company, the 66th, 
had succeeded in establishing an ammuni- 
tion supply point as far north as Monteli- 
mar. Next day the companies were re- 
lieved from divisions and attached to the 
45th Ordnance Battalion. 53 

At Montelimar the American forces had 
failed to trap the Germans, but American 
artillery and tanks had done considerable 
damage. For miles beyond, the road was 
lined with the shattered remnants of Ger- 
man tanks, trucks, guns, dead men and 
dead horses; and on the railroad to the 
north were hundreds of cars loaded with 
wrecked enemy weapons, including no less 
than six or seven railway guns like Anzio 
Annie — of great interest to the VI Corps 
veterans of Anzio. The pursuit continued, 



with VI Corps on the east bank of the 
Rhone and the French on the west trying 
to intercept and destroy the enemy before 
he could reach the Belfort Gap and with- 
draw to his West Wall fortifications. The 
generals were already planning a junc- 
ture with the U.S. Third Army around 
Dijon and a concerted drive east, perhaps 
through Strasbourg into Germany. 54 

Lyon fell on 3 September and the front 
continued to move so rapidly that in order 
to keep up with the Ordnance battalions 
the 55th Group headquarters had to move 
north 68 miles on 4 September to Bourgoin, 
about 45 miles southeast of Lyon. By this 
time the simple matter of distance had 
placed unusual responsibilities for supply 
on this forward group and made necessary 
several unorthodox methods. For one 
thing, the 77th Ordnance Depot Com- 
pany, the field depot which had been 
attached to the 43d Ordnance Battalion 
and was also supporting the 45th, could 
not get resupply readily from the two depot 
companies in the 54th Ordnance Group, 
which by 3 September was only beginning 
to move north from the beaches. To 
maintain closer supervision over the supply 
situation, Colonel McGrath placed the 
depot company under his own group 
headquarters. By agreement with army 
Ordnance, still far to the rear, he also 
took on the job of allocating critical major 
items to replace battle losses and items sent 
back from the front in unserviceable con- 
dition, leaving only the TOE shortage 



02 Histories, 55th Ord Group, 15 Aug-Dec 44; 
45th Ord Bn, May-Jun, Aug, Sep-Dec 44. 

53 ( 1 ) Memo, Col Walter G. Jennings for ACofS 
G-4, 19 Aug 44; and Col O'Neill's Jnl. Both in VI 
Corps G-4 Jnl, 1-3 1 Aug 1944, and supporting 
papers. (2) History Ord Service MTO, ch. V, pp. 
172-73- 



54 ( 1 ) Seventh Army Rpt 1944-45, Vol I, pp. 
213-17, 220-21, 249-50. (2) Donald G. Taggart, 
ed., History of the Third Infantry Division in 
World War II (Washington: Infantry Journal 
Press, 1947), p. 222. (3) Truscott, Command 
Missions, pp. 432-36. 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



289 



problem for the army Ordnance Section. 
The new system made possible delivery of 
an item to the troops within twenty-four 
hours after the depot company received a 
requisition. It worked so well that it was 
continued even after army moved up; but 
it placed an additional drain on group 
headquarters, already too thin in officers 
because of an inadequate T/O. McGrath 
continually had to fill it out with officers 
from battalions and even companies." 

At Bourgoin, so far forward that one of 
the officers had to take time out to assist 
the French Maquis in the capture of two 
German snipers, the group not only felt the 
manpower pinch, but another and more 
painful one — the pinch of hunger. Ord- 
nance companies were attached to corps 
and divisions and could draw from ad- 
vance dumps, and normally Ordnance 
group headquarters could be attached to a 
company for rations; but the companies 
were spread out so far and were moving 
so rapidly that this was now impossible. 
Army dumps, some still on the beach, were 
the only resource, and in the period of fast 
pursuit, group headquarters had to send 
a truck back from 43 to 298 miles to bring 
up food. There were times when the men 
had only two K rations a day instead of 
the three they were allotted. Buying from 
the countryside was strictly prohibited. 50 

One other resource was discovered by a 
sergeant at group headquarters who was 



65 ( 1 ) History 55th Ord Group 15 Aug-Dec 44. 
(2) McGrath Interv. (3) The group headquarters, 
later expanded from 40 to 130 men, performed 
many functions normally army. It had a finance 
unit and dental team attached, and operated a very 
successful special service club for enlisted men. 
David Comments. 

m (1) History, 55th Ord Gp, 15 Aug-Dec 44; 
and Daily Jnl, 5-6 Sep 44. (2) McGrath Interv. 



reading a copy of Stars and Stripes that 
arrived one day early in September. It 
contained the news that the Red Ball Ex- 
press serving Third Army was operating on 
a route about 160 miles to the left of 
Seventh Army. Sergeant DeMartini pon- 
dered the story and then went to Colonel 
McGrath with a proposal that group do 
some "horse-trading." Though the group 
was poor in food, it was rich in souvenirs 
— helmets, pistols, rifles, dress daggers that 
the Germans were abandoning in their 
rapid retreat up the Rhone. These ob- 
jects were of little interest to veterans of 
the Mediterranean campaigns, who already 
had all they wanted, but undoubtedly 
would interest men newly arrived in 
France. The sergeant proposed to load 
two trucks with souvenirs, take them to a 
Red Ball depot, and trade them for food. 
There was an order forbidding communi- 
cation with Third Army, but Colonel 
McGrath, sorely tempted, consented, and 
the sergeant, accompanied by Capt. George 
B. Bennett and 1st Lt. Hueston L. J. Pink- 
stone of the Ordnance Technical Intelli- 
gence Team, took off with his two truck- 
loads across the Rhone at a fast clip into 
the dangerous no-man's land — occupied 
neither by Allied nor by German forces — 
that lay between Seventh and Third 
Armies. 

Three days later McGrath was awakened 
in the middle of the night with the news 
that the trucks had returned. DeMartini, 
smoking a cigar, pulled back the tarpaulins 
and displayed his trophies — huge sides of 
beef and mutton and whole pigs hanging 
from hooks; 200 boxes of cigars, and a 
truckload of 10-in-i rations, candy, and 
cigarettes. He had got everything he 
wanted; and provided a story that would 



290 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



be told and retold whenever group vet- 
erans got together. 57 

The Halt on the Upper Rhine 

The official junction between Seventh 
and Third Armies took place on 1 1 Sep- 
tember near Dijon. The Dragoon phase 
in southern France was now over. On 1.5 
September 6th Army Group, controlling 
Seventh Army and 1st French Army, was 
formed and placed under the operational 
control of SHAEF. At Marseille, which 
capitulated on 28 August, Continental 
Base Section had been set up and was soon 
to split into Delta Base Section and Con- 
tinental Advance Section (CONAD) — the 
southern equivalent of ADSEC. But the 
changeover in logistical support from the 
Mediterranean theater to the European 
theater was very gradual. COMZ 
ETOUSA wanted control, and late in 
October set up a subcommand known as 
Southern Line of Communications 
(SOLOC) which became operational on 
20 November. Theoretically the transfer 
to ETOUSA took place on that date; but 
pending the opening of Antwerp, the bur- 
den actually fell on COMZ MTOUSA 
until February 1945. 

By the time the first Liberty ships berthed 
at Marseille on 15 September, the line of 
communications extended to the foothills of 
the Vosges Mountains, 425 to 500 miles to 
the north. Here, as in the Overlord 
area, railroad transportation could not be 
depended upon for some time because 
bridges and tunnels had been destroyed by 
Allied bombers and enemy demolitions. 



Therefore a tremendous strain was placed 
on trucks, which were needed not only for 
transporting supplies forward to the com- 
bat zone but for port clearance and other 
jobs incidental to setting up a base. In 
Marseille, space was found for Ordnance 
supplies on race tracks and exhibition 
grounds and excellent shop buildings in an 
automobile factory. Outside the city, 
twenty miles to the northwest at Mirimas, 
Ordnance officers discovered an ammuni- 
tion depot that was literally made to order, 
with a railroad where a hundred European 
freightcars could be loaded at a time, 
permanent buildings fenced in for security, 
and 50,000 acres of flat, well-drained land 
plentifully supplied with roads. It was a 
depot built by the United States Army in 
19 18, but never used. 58 

To handle such huge installations, to 
serve the new divisions that were soon to 
land at Marseille, and to furnish forward 
support when CONAD moved north to 
Lyon, more Ordnance companies were 
needed than were available. Ammunition 
companies were particularly short; and 
CONAD was so hard pressed for depot 
companies that the Ordnance officer of 
Continental Base Section even considered 
requesting the 77th Ordnance Depot Com- 
pany from Seventh Army. To a large ex- 
tent the French, who were responsible for 
clearing Marseille, had been depended 
upon for service troops; but experience 
showed that the French Ordnance units, 
composed largely of French colonials — 
Senegalese, Indo-Chinese, and Goumiers — 
were only half as effective as their U.S. 
counterparts. Realizing that the southern 
forces were badly deficient in many types 



r ' 7 (1) McGrath and David Intervs. (2) Ltr, Col 
George B. Bennett to Lida Mayo, 10 Nov 59, 
OHF. 



Renner Rpt, pp. 32, 



49 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



291 



of Ordnance units, General Sayler of 
ETOUSA arranged weeks ahead of the 
transfer to ETOUSA to send down a num- 
ber of companies from 12th Army Group 
and ETOUSA COMZ, and to divert to 
Marseille several shipments from the 
United States. 59 

In the forward areas, pending the re- 
habilitation of the railroads, Seventh Army 
Ordnance Section mobilized all vehicles 
not in use, provided Ordnance drivers, and 
sent special convoys back to Marseille to 
pick up critical supplies. This emergency 
supply line, known as "The Flaming Bomb 
Express," used everything from jeeps to 
tank transporters, and was continued until 
8 October, when a railhead opened in the 
Vesoul area. By the third week in Octo- 
ber, rail shipments were arriving even 
farther north, at Epinal; but they were 
irregular and did not always deliver the 
supplies most needed. For some time to 
come, Ordnance trucks still had to make 
trips back to Marseille. 00 

In the Seventh Army area as well as 
that of Third Army local resources were 
thoroughly explored to keep men and sup- 
plies moving. The roads soon began to 
fill with strange vehicles ingeniously 



59 (1) Msg LAX 13230, COMZ NATOUSA 
ADV to Sixth Army Group, 30 Oct 44; and Ltr, 
Col D. C. Cabell, Ord Officer CBS, to Ord Officer 
SOS NATOUSA, 24 Sep 44, sub: Div of Troop 
Units Between Continental Advance and Delta 
Base Sees. Both in MTO Ord Sec, 370.5 Assign- 
ment of Troops, vol. Ill, KCRC. (2) Ltr, Sayler 
to CofOrd, 18 Oct 44, sub: Rpt on ETO Ord 
Activities, Barnes File Overseas Ltrs (Europe). 
(3) For French Ordnance units generally, see 
History Ord Service MTO, ch. V, "Comments on 
Ordnance Service Activities in the French Forces 
as Presented by U.S. Liaison Personnel on Duty 
with the First French Army," pp. 187-21 1, OHF. 

60 (1) History Ord Service MTO, ch. V, p. 182. 
(2) Seventh Army Rpt, 1944-45, II, 533-45. 



adapted in Ordnance shops — a German 
bakery van, a Paris bus, and civilian vehi- 
cles of all kinds. At Besancon one Ord- 
nance company discovered some 300 Euro- 
pean cars — Renaults, Fiats, and other 
makes — that the Germans had seized and 
stored in a warehouse. Many of them 
were little better than wrecks, but the 
mechanics by cannibalizing for parts were 
able to put about a third of them into 
shape. With a final coat of olive drab 
paint, they were soon in use as staff and 
command cars. 61 

After a lull during most of October, 
Seventh Army began in mid-November the 
offensive over the Vosges Mountains that 
brought it to the Rhine at Strasbourg 
early in December. The assault over 
rugged terrain in snow and mud, against 
German resistance that stiffened as the 
Allies approached the Rhine, was costly in 
materiel. Often trucks and jeeps had to 
be operated off the road over undergrowth 
or on roads littered with shell fragments, 
wire, and nails, which were ruinous to tires 
and tubes. There was a clamor for auto- 
motive spare parts. New divisions such as 
the 100th and 103d had arrived without 
their basic loads, and the trucks of the 
divisions that had fought through the Med- 
iterranean campaigns were wearing out and 
needed not only parts but major assemblies 
and windshields. Tanks were also a source 
of worry, especially in the newly arrived 
14th Armored Division, which had turned 
in its equipment in the United States and 
been supplied in Marseille with light tanks 
that the 2d French Armored had used in 
North Africa and Italy. One unexpected 



61 ( 1 ) Renner Rpt, p. 20. (2) T/Sgt Milton Leh- 
man, "400 Miles of Trouble," Firepower, I, No. 4 
(December 1944), 9. 



292 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



demand was for grenade launchers needed 
by infantrymen for close-in fire support." 
The transfer of XV Corps ( 79th Infan- 
try and 2d French Armored Divisions) 
from Third Army to Seventh on 29 Sep- 
tember, the addition of the 44th Division 
shortly afterward, and the arrival of the 
100th and 103d Infantry Divisions, 12th 
and 14th Armored Divisions, and elements 
of the 42d, 63d, and 70th Infantry Divi- 
sions before the end of 1944, placed a 
heavy burden on Seventh Army Ordnance 
Service because the new divisions seemed 
nearly always to arrive ahead of the Ord- 
nance units sent to support them. Also, 
the changes in the tactical situation during 
December, requiring the movement and 
regrouping of shops and depots, compli- 
cated the task of support. Late in Novem- 
ber General Eisenhower changed the direc- 
tion of 6th Army Group's advance. After 
the capture of Strasbourg, 1st French 
Army was to concern itself with the liq- 
uidation of the Colmar Pocket, an area 
held by the Germans between Strasbourg 
and Mulhouse, and Seventh Army was to 
attack northward and assist Third Army 
in breaking the Siegfried Line west of the 
Rhine. But in mid-December, just as 
Seventh Army was preparing for its thrust 
into the Saar-Palatinate, the Germans 
struck in the Ardennes. Third Army had 
to be wheeled north to help First Army 
fight the Battle of the Bulge. Seventh 
Army, receiving Patton's right flank corps 
and responsibility for some twenty-five 
miles of the front on the Upper Rhine, 
went on the defensive until the big push 



into Germany got under way in March. ' 

In January 1945 an Ordnance observer 
from the States, Maj. William E. Renner, 
visited the headquarters of the 55th and 
54th Ordnance Groups, then located with- 
in ten miles of each other near Sarrebourg 
in the Vosges, twenty-five miles forward of 
Seventh Army headquarters. He was im- 
pressed by their policy of "12-hour deliv- 
ery" — the delivery of replacements for 
combat losses within twelve hours after the 
loss was reported. They had an excellent 
reputation for service. They had applied 
to good effect the techniques they had 
learned in the Mediterranean, the "En- 
velope System," for example, and the issu- 
ance of informative operations bulletins 
along the lines of those originated by Niblo. 
They had achieved a workable organiza- 
tion whereby the 54th's main mission was 
support of the 55th, the two groups oper- 
ating close together geographically and 
functionally. 64 

They had worked under several handi- 
caps. One was the inexperience of the 
Seventh Army Ordnance officer, Col. 
Edward W. Smith (a brigadier general 
before the winter was over) ; consequently, 
an unduly large share of the responsibility 
for Seventh Army Ordnance Service had 
of necessity fallen on his operations officer, 
Colonel Artamonoff, and the commander 
of his forward group, Colonel McGrath. 
Other handicaps were the weariness of the 
Ordnance men and the age of Seventh 
Army materiel. By February 1945 the 
55th Ordnance Group had two companies 



62 ( 1 ) 6th Army Group, Weekly G-4 Periodic 
Rpts, Seventh Army, 14 Nov-iJar»45. (2) SHAEF, 
6th AG 3 1 9. 1 Daily Rpts, vol. I, 7 Nov-30 Dec 44. 



03 ( 1 ) Seventh Army Rpt, 1944-45, H. 396-503- 
(2) Histories 55th, 54th Gps, Aug-Dec 44. (4) 
USFET Board Rpt 101, app. 13, Memo from Capt 
J. C. Yates. 

04 (1) Renner Rpt, pp. 35-36. (2) History 54th 
Group for Dec 44. 



THE RACE ACROSS FRANCE 



293 



that had served thirty months overseas. 
Trucks, tanks, and guns brought from the 
Mediterranean were wearing out, and 
some of the ammunition was old. Major 
Renner noted ammunition boxes and pro- 
pelling charges that had been in Iceland, 
England, North Africa, Sicily, and Italy 
"and they looked it!" 65 

It had been difficult to get new supplies 
from the United States. The "southern- 



ers" felt that the War Department con- 
sidered them stepchildren, and even the 
men in the Overlord area were inclined 
to agree. To 12th Army Group, the 6th 
Army Group operations, though acknowl- 
edged to be valuable and valorous, were 
still a "sideshow." Priority on supplies 
and men went to First Army, which all 
through the fall and winter had held the 
limelight in Belgium. fiG 



65 ( 1 ) Sayler, Crawford, and David Intervs and 
Interv, Harold R. Johnson, 22 Jun 61. (2) Hist 
55th Ord Group. (3) Renner Rpt, p. 19. 



60 (1) Renner Rpt, p. 18. (2) Ingersoll, Top 
Secret, pp. 297-98. (3) Interv, Brig Gen Harold 
A. Nisley, 29 Oct 58. 



CHAPTER XVI 



At the Siegfried Line in Belgium 



On the evening of 1 1 September 1 944 
elements of First Army were on the Ger- 
man border. Several V Corps patrols 
crossed the Our River and stood on Ger- 
man soil, where they gazed curiously at 
concrete pillboxes and hunted for souvenirs 
before they returned to their own lines. 
Next day the advance was halted all along 
the First Army front until the artillery am- 
munition needed to assault the Siegfried 
Line could be brought up, supposedly a 
matter of only a few days. By 1 1 Sep- 
tember, Medaris' 71st Ordnance Ammu- 
nition Group had brought enough ammu- 
nition forward in its big trucking operation 
to establish a sizable army depot near 
Liege. At Liege for the first time since 
D-day army had a good railhead close to 
the front, and shipments began to come 
in almost immediately by rail. But a seri- 
ous famine in all kinds of supplies, an after- 
math of the fast pursuit, was about to 
affect all the armies. On the First Army 
front the halt at the Siegfried Line was to 
be a long one. 1 

In the army area around the Liege rail- 
head Ordnance units found shelter as cold 
weather came on in schoolhouses, factories, 



1 ( 1 ) Charles B. MacDonald, The Siegfried Line 
Campaign,UNITED STATES ARMY IN WORLD 
WAR II (Washington, 1963), pp. 1-14, 36-37. 
Unless otherwise noted, this chapter is based on this 
source and on Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the 
Armies, vol. II. (2) History ioothOrd Ammunition 
Bn, p. 47. 



and other buildings abandoned by the Bel- 
gians for lack of coal to heat them. One 
unit, the 51st Ordnance Group, found 
temporary billets in a moated chateau that 
the Germans had used as a "baby factory" 
— a home for unmarried Belgian girls who 
had children by German soldiers. Ammu- 
nition companies of First Army, like those 
of Third Army about this time, began to 
use roadside storage as fields became 
muddy, or they stacked their ammunition 
along village streets. These companies re- 
mained at the Siegfried Line during Octo- 
ber and November when only limited gains 
could be made, such as the capture of 
Aachen by VII Corps on 21 October. 
The VII Corps then became First Army's 
northernmost, since XIX Corps passed to 
Ninth Army. When V Corps was pulled 
north to protect VII Corps' right flank in 
the Hurtgen Forest, VIII Corps was 
brought from Brittany to hold in the 
Ardennes. 2 

The Supply Famine 

In late summer and early fall of 1944, 
First Army was feeling acutely the shortage 
of Class II and IV supplies — weapons, 



2 (1 ) Histories 25th Ord Bn, 590th Ord Bn, and 
100th Ammunition Bn. (2) Medaris, "Field Serv- 
ice in the First Army," p. 67. (3) FUSA Ord 
Monthly Rpt, Sep, Annex II to sec IV. (4) Renner 
Rpt, p. 39- 



AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 



295 



trucks, and parts — which had been ne- 
glected in the rush to get rations, gas, and 
ammunition forward. More tanks, jeeps, 
light armored cars, rifles, mortars, and gre- 
nade launchers had been needed ever since 
the summer hedgerow fighting. During 
August and September the most critical 
shortages were medium tank engines, tank 
tracks, and tires. In the period of fast 
pursuit the tanks, described by Ernest 
Hemingway as "smashing around like so 
many drunken elephants in a native vil- 
lage," had suffered badly. First Army's 
precious supplies of tank engines and 
tracks, brought up over the beaches with 
so much effort, had been expended in the 
job of refitting the tanks of XV Corps 
when it passed temporarily from Third 
Army to First Army control late in 
August. 3 During October, because of the 
transportation crisis, trucks of all kinds be- 
came extremely scarce, and the stock of 
spare parts, as well as engines for trucks 
and jeeps, reached the lowest level of the 
whole European campaign. The assault 
on the Siegfried Line brought shortages in 
artillery materiel — gun tubes, equilibrators, 
and recoil mechanisms. 4 

Communications Zone opened Ordnance 
Base Depot O-619 in Cherbourg on 20 
August and O-644 in Paris in October. 
Theoretically army placed its requisitions 
through a regulating station, which for- 
warded them to the theater's chief Ord- 
nance officer, and Communications Zone 
sent the supplies in replacement vehicles, 
or, later, by rail. But First Army supplies 



either did not arrive, or, if they did, they 
were the wrong supplies. On one occa- 
sion near Liege, the army supply battalion 
simply took the locomotive off one end of 
the train, put it on the other end, and sent 
back the whole trainload of supplies. 
During September First Army received 
only 9.8 percent of its total requirements 
for Ordnance spare parts and assemblies. 
And even in early October there were no 
tires or tank tracks and parts in ADSEC 
depots, although these items had been 
critical for months. 5 

It is debatable how much better Com- 
munications Zone could have done, granted 
the sheer speed of the advance from St. L6 
to the German border; the strain on truck 
transportation imposed by the destruction 
of rail lines by bombing; the failure to clear 
the ports; and bad guesses in the United 
States as to battle losses in tanks and the 
number of trucks and all kinds of vehicular 
spare parts that would be needed. Ord- 
nance supply officers at Communications 
Zone, when taken to task by 12th Army 
Group, maintained that with the exception 
of a very few critical items their troubles 
were "purely transportation"; that the sup- 
plies were still afloat off the coast of 
France because G-4 did not give them a 
high enough priority for unloading. Their 
position was supported by Col. Waldo E. 
Laidlaw, Ordnance officer of the New 
York Port of Embarkation, who reported 
to 1 2th Army Group headquarters at 



3 (0 FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt. (2) Ernest 
Hemingway, "Battle for Paris," Collier's, Vol. 114, 
No. 14 (September 30, 1944), 67. (3) XV Corps 
G-4 Jnl, Annex 4, Aug 44. (4) Ltr, Medaris to 
Pattison, 28 Oct 63. 

4 First Army Rpt 2, Annex 9, p. 8. 



5 (1) FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt, Sep. (2) Interv, 
Lt Col Lyman O. Heidtke, CO 310th Ord Bn, by 
William M. Hines, Sr., 3 Aug 45, in Hines History, 
vol. Ill, OHF. (3) First Army G-4 Report No. 
5, 6 Sep 44, 1 2th AG files, 31 9.1 G-4 Rpts 
(FUSA), Vol. 1. (4) Lt Alfred H. Marshall, Jr., 
"A History of ADSEC Ordnance," p. 13, ETO 
Ord Sec files, KCRC. 



296 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Verdun on 25 September that fifty-six 
ships containing Class II supplies were be- 
ing held offshore because they could not be 
unloaded. 6 

These explanations did not satisfy First 
Army Ordnance officers, who stormed 12th 
Army Group headquarters repeatedly for 
help on supply. Some of their complaints 
were received with reservations : First Army 
had a reputation for asking for the moon. 
On the other hand, First Army Ordnance 
men felt that there were times when Com- 
munications Zone actually hindered supply. 
During the first two weeks in September, 
at the height of the pursuit, Communica- 
tions Zone moved its entire 1 1 ,000-man 
headquarters from Valognes to Paris, up- 
anchoring its operations and creating a 
major tieup in communications, transpor- 
tation, and supply in general. Brig. Gen. 
Royal B. Lord, who was Lt. Gen. John C. 
H. Lee's chief of staff at Communications 
Zone and who had ordered the move, justi- 
fied it on the necessity for better communi- 
cations facilities than were available in 
Valognes. General Sayler agreed, empha- 
sizing the need for closer liaison with the 
rear echelon in England. Eisenhower and 
Bradley sharply disapproved of the 
"stampede to Paris." 7 



e ( 1 ) Bykofsky and Larson, The Transportation 
Corps: Operations Overseas, pp. 301-18. (2) 
Interv, Maj Gen Everett S. Hughes by William M. 
Hines, Sr., 19 Jul 45, in Hines History, Vol. Ill, 
pp. 623-26, OHF. (3) Daily Jnl Ord Sec 12th 
AG, 15, 25 Sep 44. 

7 (i) Daily Jnl Ord Sec 12th AG, entries for 
September. (2) Intervs by R. G. Ruppenthal with 
Brig Gen Raymond G. Moses, G-4 12th AG, 13 
Aug 51, and Maj Gen Royal B. Lord, 9 Aug 51; 
and Intervs by F. C. Pogue with Maj Gen Robert 
W. Crawford, G-4 SHAEF, and Lt Gen Walter 
B. Smith, CofS SHAEF, 5 May 48, all in OCMH 
Interviews. (3) Comments by Maj Gen Henry B. 
Sayler (USA Ret), Incl to Ltr to Brig Gen Hal 



One COMZ effort that was for a con- 
siderable time more of a handicap to Ord- 
nance than a help (however useful to 
other services) was the operation of the 
Red Ball Express, which was extravagant 
of trucks, parts, and tires at a time when 
they were precious. First Army Ordnance 
accused COMZ depot men of the sin (un- 
forgivable in Medaris' eyes) of not know- 
ing what they had. The depot men on 
their part complained of the difficulty of 
determining what was wanted, because 
nomenclature on many army requisitions 
differed from nomenclature on depot stock 
cards. Whatever the cause, this stumbling 
block forced Medaris to place liaison men 
at Depots O-619 and O-644 to identify 
"lost" parts. At times both First and 
Third Army Ordnance Sections had to 
send their own trucks back to ports as well 
as to COMZ depots. On 4 October, for 
example, 25 First Army Ordnance vans 
with 100 drivers went all the way back to 
Cherbourg to pick up supplies. This was 
much too reminiscent of Sicily. 8 

Local Procurement 

Experience in France and in the Medi- 
terranean had taught Medaris an important 
lesson about supplies. He expressed it in 
two sentences: "Never base a plan of 

C. Pattison, 8 Oct 63 (hereafter cited as Sayler 
Comments), OCMH. (4) Bradley, A Soldier's 
Story, p. 406. (6) Medaris Interv. 

8 (i) Ibid. (2) Sayler Comments. (3) For the 
world-wide obstruction to supply caused by mis- 
takes in item identification, see Thomson and 
Mayo, Procurement and Supply, pp. 395-98. (4) 
First Army Rpt 2, Annex 9, p. 6. (5) FUSA Ord 
Monthly Rpt, Oct, Supply Div, p. 2. (6) Interv, 
Col Wilton B. Moats (USA Ret), CO of 51st 
Ord Group, 2 Mar 61, OHF. (7) Elliot Interv in 
Hines History, vol. Ill, p. 424. (8) For Third 
Army experience see Nixon Comments. 



AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 



297 



action on the theory that you will have 
enough. Base it on a probable scarcity 
and be ready to manufacture the supplies 
not on hand." 9 

Late in August he instructed his main- 
tenance companies that fifth echelon repair 
would have to be the rule rather than the 
exception and that every available man 
would have to be used to place back in 
service as much equipment as possible. 
As army shop facilities were necessarily 
limited, Medaris then turned to French 
factories. Paris provided the first real 
opportunity for local procurement since 
very little had been possible in Normandy, 
where the few existing factories had been 
destroyed. On 6 September Medaris sent 
four officers to Paris to scout the possibil- 
ities for rebuilding tank engines; repairing 
and retreading tires; buying civilian cars; 
and obtaining oxygen and acetylene for 
gas cylinders. 10 

Though civilian cars were in short sup- 
ply, considerable help came from purchases 
such as gas cylinder fillings and special 
helmets for tank crews, which are worn to 
protect heads from injury within the tank. 
A French helmet of pressed aluminum 
with a leather insert was approved by First 
Army's Armored Section and 278 had been 
delivered by mid-September. But factory 
output was severely limited by lack of elec- 
tric power and materials, especially mate- 
rials for rebuilding tires. The most im- 
mediate result of this effort at local 
procurement was the First Army contract 
to overhaul — not rebuild — tank engines. 
One afternoon Col. Nelson M. Lynde, Jr., 
Medaris' maintenance officer, and Col. 



Floyd A. Hansen, his executive officer, 
drove to Paris in a jeep to look for a site 
for an automotive dump. Along the way 
Lynde noticed the large Gnome-Rhone fac- 
tory, which manufactured engines. He 
was immediately interested because he had 
200 unserviceable tank engines that he had 
brought over to the Continent, having been 
unable to get them overhauled in England. 
He had carried the engines across France 
on tank transporters, awaiting the time 
when Ordnance companies could obtain 
enough parts by cannibalization to do the 
work. He found out that Gnome-Rhone 
was willing to take on the overhaul job, 
and after the first engines the company 
sent back to Ordnance for testing were 
found to be satisfactory, Gnome-Rhone 
was given a contract to overhaul the 200 
engines at $500 an engine. The contract 
was filled in about two weeks, and First 
Army Ordnance got the tank engines in 
late September, the only ones it was to get 
for four months. After the engines were 
completed, Communications Zone took 
over the contract. 11 

When Communications Zone became 
operational in Paris the second week in 
September, its Ordnance Section's Procure- 
ment and Fiscal Division (later renamed 
the Industrial Division) undertook an en- 
gine rebuild program, contracting with 
other firms in and around Paris for both 
tank and truck engines. Truck engines 
were more and more in demand as the 
effects of Red Ball continued to be felt. 
But it took a long time to get the French 
shops started. Obtaining coal and elec- 
tricity, training the workers, and above all, 



9 Medaris, "Field Service in the First Army," 
p. 67. 

10 FUSA Ord Monthly Report, Sep 44. 



11 ( 1 ) FUSA Ord Monthly Rpts, Sep and Oct. 
(2) Hansen Interv and Interv with Maj Gen Nel- 
son M. Lynde, Jr. (USA Ret), 10 Nov 64. OCMH. 



298 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



finding the parts (especially bearings) 
needed in rebuild involved a long and 
arduous process. No real results were 
possible until early 1945. For most of the 
autumn of 1944 the Gnome-Rhone plant 
was the only factory in production. 12 

In Belgium where big manufacturing 
centers were close behind the front and 
where industrialists would presumably be 
far easier to work with than German firms 
would be after First Army moved into 
Germany, Medaris started a local procure- 
ment program on a grand scale. At 
Liege he negotiated a sizable contract with 
Fabrique Nationale des Armes de Guerre, 
which had extensive metalworking facilities 
and also, as holder of all Browning patents, 
was able to make small arms and small 
arms parts as well as parts for heavy artil- 
lery carriages. Help on tire manufacture, 
recap and retread, came from the Liege 
plant of Engelbert and Company, which 
could handle work on tires and tubes of 
all sizes, even those for the huge tank trans- 
porters, especially after the capture of 
Malmedy brought into army stocks fifty 
tons of German buna and two tons of 
Japanese gum rubber. 



12 ( 1 ) For the COMZ Ordnance effort on engine 
rebuild, tires, and extended end connectors (the 
three major programs) see Ord Serv ETO, Local 
Procurement and Industrial Service, OHF, and 
Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the Armies, II, 
488-92. (2) An unsigned letter of 26 September 44, 
in FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt for September, by a 
First Army officer stationed at the Gnome-Rhone 
plant stated: "Evidently First Army has started 
something in engine rebuilding as General Christmas 
from Tank Automotive Center, Detroit, was here 
yesterday. He seemed well pleased. . . ." But the 
report of the Christmas mission to ETOUSA in- 
dicates that General Christmas was under the im- 
pression that the Gnome-Rhone operation was an 
undertaking of COMZ Ordnance Section. 80-S 
Report on Visit to ETOUSA, 10/23/44, Brig Gen 
John K. Christmas, Col. H. R. White and Col. T. A. 
Weyher, p. 7. 



During October, as these contracts be- 
gan to bear fruit, other services, especially 
Quartermaster, began to take advantage of 
local facilities, but Ordnance was the 
leader and continued local procurement 
on a scale unheard of at army level. In 
spite of shortages in raw material, fuel, 
power, and skilled labor, and the destruc- 
tion wrought by German V-i bombs, be- 
tween September 1944 and February 1945 
First Army Ordnance obtained from firms 
in Liege and from others as far west as 
Brussels more than a thousand different 
badly needed items, some of them in con- 
siderable quantities. In November Medaris 
assigned the administration of this am- 
bitious program to the 185th Battalion of 
the 7 2d Ordnance Group as its sole 



First Army Improvises 

During the halt at the Siegfried Line 
First Army Ordnance even managed with 
the help of civilian resources to improve 
some of its materiel. Combat forces had 
complained that 60-mm. and 81 -mm. mor- 
tars, which had been scarce ever since the 
hedgerow battles in Normandy, were in- 
accurate. At the request of Colonel Lynde, 
COMZ sent ist Lt. George L. Herter to 
investigate. Herter was energetic and in- 
ventive. By living with the mortar crews 
of several infantry divisions he found out 
the faults of the mortars, corrected them 
in two models, and had the models tested 



13 ( 1 ) FUSA Ord Monthly Rpts, Sep, Oct, Nov 
44; (2) First Army Rpt 2, Annex 2, pp. 116-17 
and Annex 9, p. n; (3) Ord Serv ETO, Local 
Procurement and Industrial Service, pp. 119-27; 
(4) Entry on visit of Col. Lynde, FUSA, to 12th 
AG Hqtrs on 16 Oct 44 (asking 12th AG to "force 
COMZ into more local procurement of critical 
items"), Daily Jnl Ord Sec 12th AG. 



AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 



299 



in combat. First Army then contracted 
with J. Honres Artillerie, a manufacturer 
near Liege that had formerly made the 
Stokes Brandt mortar, to rebuild all mor- 
tars according to Herter's specifications. 
This project, completed between Septem- 
ber and December under the supervision of 
Herter and three inspectors from the 25th 
Ordnance Battalion, greatly improved the 
accuracy of the mortars and all but elimi- 
nated maintenance troubles. J. Honres 
Artillerie also manufactured from captured 
materiel more than 200 complete 60-mm. 
mortars and mortar sights. 14 

An important artillery item was also im- 
proved. Gas check pads had been wear- 
ing out at an alarming rate — a repetition 
of the experience in Italy, where the life 
of the pad was estimated at only about 300 
rounds. An examination of two German 
gas check pads found with 155-mm. guns 
emplaced in the Maginot Line had revealed 
that they were quite different from their 
American counterparts, which were made 
of wire mesh, paraffin, and asbestos, and 
were so fragile that they had to be handled 
carefully. The German pads were made 
of synthetic rubber, were tough, and 
seemed to have an almost indefinite life. 
Tested in an American gun, one lasted 
1,800 rounds before it was cut by a de- 
fective split-ring. Fortunately, the man- 
ager of Engelbert and Company was 
familiar with the composition used in the 
German pad and could duplicate it. 



14 ( 1 ) FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt for Sep. ( 2 ) 
First Army Rpt 2, Annex 9, pp. 11-12. (3) For 
one assistant division commander's appreciation of 
the "splendid" new 60-mm. mortar, see Memo, 
Maj Gen John E. Hull, ACofS OPD, for Brig 
Gen William A. Borden, 29 Mar 45, sub: Com- 
ments on German Bazooka and Various American 
Weapons, OPD 471.61. (4) Lynde Interv. 



Molds for all calibers were machined and 
production started at five per caliber a day. 
The new pads were cheap and relatively 
indestructible; their life exceeded that of 
the tube. 15 

Manufacture and Improvisation in 
Army Shops 

Many of the items procured in Belgium 
were truck engine parts needed for First 
Army's own engine rebuild program. 
Medaris early planned a big assembly line 
operation in his own shops, for his experi- 
ence had left him with little faith in sup- 
ply from the rear. First Army's require- 
ment for truck engines had been estimated 
at 800 a month. In the five months after 
D-day First Army had received only 562 
from COMZ — actually the number was 
162, for in July First Army Ordnance Sec- 
tion had turned in 400 to base depots 
because there was no transportation to 
move them. Later, when Medaris sent 
truckloads of damaged engines back to 
Paris, he found that they were disappear- 
ing into COMZ stocks — until he began 
sending them back under armed guard, 
two men to a truck, with orders to release 
damaged engines only in exchange for 
good ones. COMZ's engine rebuild pro- 
gram was just beginning to get under way 
in mid-December and any real increase in 
production had to await a big shipment of 
parts from the United States later in the 
month. 16 



15 ( 1 ) First Army Rpt 2, Annex 9, p. 12. (2) 
Ord Serv ETO, Local Procurement and Industrial 
Service, pp. 123-24. (3) Lynde Interv. 

16 ( 1 ) FUSA Monthly Rpt for Oct, app. Ill, p. 2 ; 
(2) Medaris Interv. (3) Personal Ltr, Col Dillon, 
Chief Maint Div, Off of Chief Ord Officer, COMZ 
ETOUSA, to Gen Campbell, 12 Dec 44, no sub, 



300 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



First Army rebuild of engines and other 
major assemblies for trucks, such as car- 
buretors, starters, generators, axles, and 
transmissions, had began the second week 
of October at Verviers, a town at that time 
less than 12 miles from the front lines, 
which had been selected as headquarters 
for the main shop battalion because it was 
as far forward as the battalion could move 
until First Army crossed the Rhine. At 
Verviers Ordnance found two excellent 
buildings, each large enough to accommo- 
date the complete shop of a heavy auto- 
motive maintenance company, with room 
to billet the men. There were also some 
valuable legacies from the Germans, who 
had used the town for rebuilding their own 
equipment. The two companies selected 
for the rebuild job, the 868th Heavy Auto- 
motive Company and the 900th, found 
benches, engine stands, shop racks, and 
even double-decker beds and wall lockers. 
Base shop equipment such as rigs and 
dollies they had to improvise, since they 
had only fourth echelon equipment. 
Working long hours, sometimes under 
blackout conditions, frequently in danger 
from buzz bombs, and constantly plagued 
for lack of certain parts that could not be 
obtained locally, the men made a remark- 
able record, rebuilding 783 major assem- 
blies during October, of which 304 were 
engines. 17 

A good deal of work was done in First 
Army shops in the neighborhood of Liege 
on gun tubes, recoil mechanisms, and other 



O.O. 350.05/ 1 5446/2. (4) Dillon, Report on En- 
gine Rebuild, European Theater of Operations, 28 
May 45, OHF. 

17 ( 1 ) FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt for Oct, app. 
Ill, Incl 1. (2) History 868th Heavy Auto Maint 
Co, 26 June 44-31 Dec 44. (3) Elliot Interv in 
Hines History. 



artillery parts, because in the assault on the 
Siegfried Line artillery was playing an im- 
portant role as it had in Italy. One major 
Ordnance effort, for which the artillery- 
men were grateful, was aimed at keeping 
the very few M 1 2 self-propelled guns shoot- 
ing. The Mi 2, made by mounting the 
old 19 18 French GPF 155-mm. gun on 
a tank chassis, had been developed by the 
Ordnance Department and accepted with- 
out much enthusiasm by Army Ground 
Forces, which had authorized the manu- 
facture in the United States of only a hun- 
dred. First Army had three battalions and 
at first had been doubtful whether they 
would be of much use. But the mount 
proved to be remarkably sturdy and "the 
old GPF tubes," the Artillery officer re- 
ported, "again spoke with authority on 
French soil." The Mi2's had been able 
to keep up with the armored divisions in 
the race across France as no other medium 
or heavy artillery could. They were es- 
pecially valuable at the Siegfried Line be- 
cause they could be brought up to within 
a few hundred yards of the strong concrete 
fortifications, closer to the target than had 
hitherto been possible for heavy artillery. 13 
This employment in direct fire made 
possible a somewhat bizarre repair job on 
the tube of an M12 received one day in 
November in an Ordnance tank mainte- 
nance shop in Maastricht, Holland. The 



18 ( 1 ) Green, Thomson, and Roots, Planning 
Munitions for War, pp. 316-17. (2) For the 
"battle" by Ordnance to gain approval of even 
100 Mi2's, see Campbell Comments. (3) Rpt by 
Arty Off, First US Army, "The 155-mm. Gun SP 
Mi 2," in "Memoranda, First United States Army 
Artillery Information Service," Dec 44, pp. 16- 
21, Barnes file, OHF. (4) Memo, Lt Col D. A. 
Hoppock for Tank and Motor Transport Div, 26 
Mar 45, quoting AGF Bd Rpt MTO #A-a8i, 
Barnes file, OHF. 



AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 



301 



tube had been hit on its side about six 
inches from the muzzle. No replacement 
tubes were to be had, and the gun was 
badly needed. At the suggestion of the 
maintenance officer, with the concurrence 
of the artillerymen and the corps Ordnance 
officer, the problem was solved by sawing 
about a foot off the muzzle end of the tube, 
and the gun was returned to action. 19 

In the reduction of Aachen the Mi2's 
were invaluable. On 18 October one 
M12 battalion at a cost of only sixty-four 
rounds neutralized an observation post and 
nine buildings — one of them a movie 
theater occupied by a company of German 
infantrymen, all of whom were either killed 
or wounded. The German colonel who 
had commanded the city afterward spoke 
of the Mi2's with "considerable consterna- 
tion," according to a G-2 report, swearing 
that a shell from one of them had pierced 
three houses before exploding and wreck- 
ing the fourth. The Mi 2 carriages were 
so scarce ( there were no replacements ) that 
it was a real loss when one of them was put 
out of action by the enemy in October. 
First Army Ordnance men salvaged the 
gun, recoil mechanism, and top carriage, 
and installed them in a cargo carrier 
M30, an outstanding feat of improvisation, 
for the piece went back into action and 
worked well. The crew promptly dubbed 
it "Miss Carriage 1944." 20 



19 Lt. Col. James D. Sams, "Ordnance Improvisa- 
tion in the Combat Zone," Military Review, 
XXVII, 2 (May 1948), p. 35- 

20 (1) Rpt by Artillery Officer, First US Army, 
"The 155-mm. Gun SP Mi 2." (2) FUSA Ord 
Monthly Rpt, Oct 44, app. Ill, Incl 4. (3) Ltr, Maj 
Gen Henry B. Sayler to OCO, 7 Nov 44, sub: Sup- 
plementary Reply to Technical Information Letter 
Number 17, dtd 31 Aug. 44, O.O. 350.05/15254. 



Frustration at the Ports and Depots 

Shortly before midnight on 3 October a 
telephone call from Colonel Ray, Medaris' 
ammunition officer, to 12th Army Group 
headquarters at Verdun gave warning of a 
crisis in ammunition supply. Ray was 
thoroughly angry. The day before, First 
Army had received a TWX from 12th 
Army Group granting for the period 5-13 
October somewhat larger expenditure rates 
for scarce artillery ammunition than had 
hitherto been possible. That same day 
General Hodges had jumped off for Aachen. 
Then Communications Zone had placed 
zeroes opposite requisitions for virtually all 
of the ammunition. As an example, Ray 
cited the case of the HE shell for the 105- 
mm. howitzer M3. The 12th Army 
Group had authorized 25,000 rounds but 
COMZ had been unable to fill requisitions. 
What was the use, Ray wanted to know, 
of authorizing expenditures if the ammu- 
nition was not available? He believed 
that 1 2 th Army Group did not in fact 
know what was available or what effect 
the expenditures would have on stocks in 
reserve. 21 

Ray was a little hard on 12 th Army 
Group. General Moses, Group G-4, had 
suspected that COMZ's figures on avail- 
ability were too optimistic and had simply 
decided to call its bluff. COMZ was the 
real culprit, for it had counted as assets 
stocks on ships still afloat off the Norman- 
dy beaches and ports, placing too much 
confidence in a program it had begun the 
last of September to accelerate unloading. 
Communications Zone could not deliver 
for two reasons: at Cherbourg higher au- 



21 Daily Jnl Ord Sec, 12 th Army Group, 2-3 
Oct 44. 



302 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



thority gave priority to troop debarkations, 
and at the beaches autumn storms had vir- 
tually stopped operations. There were 
thirty-five ammunition ships offshore that 
could not be unloaded. These facts were 
brought to light at the next 12 th Army 
Group allocation meeting on 9 October, 
which because of the crisis was attended by 
the ammunition officers of First, Third, 
and Ninth Armies. 

As a result of this meeting and a high- 
level conference held at 12th Army Group 
on 1 1 October, two steps were taken to 
see that the armies were supplied. First, 
1 2th Army Group sent a planeload of 
officers to Paris to get authority from Gen- 
eral Lee to speed up unloading; second, it 
declared a moratorium on supply to the 
armies until stocks were built up in COMZ 
depots at Soissons, Liege, and Verdun. 
The end date of the build-up was set at 7 
November on the following basis: 10 days 
to set up priorities and get the ships 
berthed; 10 days to unload; 4 days for 
shipment to COMZ depots; and 8 days 
for armies to place requisitions and start 
receiving. 22 

Not only the ammunition shortage but 
the very critical shortage of Class II sup- 
plies, especially trucks, was threatening to 
delay the November offensive. The sup- 
ply conference General Bradley called on 
1 1 October brought together representa- 
tives of SHAEF, 1 2th Army Group, and 
First, Third, and Ninth Armies to find a 
way out of the crisis. Bradley later re- 



membered with some amusement that when 
Patton, accompanied by his chief of staff 
and G— 4, arrived and saw Medaris he im- 
mediately sent for Colonel Nixon, warning 
his chief of staff to be on his guard against 
Medaris and Wilson, the First Army G-4. 
"I know them both," he said, remember- 
ing II Corps, "they once worked for me." 23 

As the conferees explored the supply 
situation, it became plain that there was 
little that could be done for the moment, 
beyond prodding Communications Zone to 
step up port operations. During most of 
the fall of 1944, shipping was the bottle- 
neck. To make way for such high-priority 
items as weapons, tires, antifreeze, and 
spare parts, virtually no general purpose 
vehicles were shipped in November and 
December; the War Department had cut 
down on shipping because of the theater's 
inability to unload. Ships were actually 
being returned from the ETO partially un- 
loaded; by mid-November some 36,000 
tons of supplies — the unloaded cargoes on 
some thirteen to fifteen vessels — were being 
set up for return to the United States. 24 

General Bradley, impatient with what he 
called Field Marshal Montgomery's "tardi- 
ness" in the north, believed that the rem- 
edy for the ammunition shortage lay in 
opening Antwerp, the port nearest the 
front lines. Captured early in September, 
Antwerp could not be used until the Ger- 
mans had been cleared from the approaches 
to the Schelde estuary. But opening the 
port (the first vessel docked there on 28 



22 (1) Interv, Moses by R. G. Ruppenthal. (2) 
1 2th Army Group Rpt, Vol XII, p. 141. (3) Min, 
Ammunition Allocation Meeting of 9 Oct 44 and 
Rpt of Trip to ComZ 14 Oct 44 in Daily Jnl 
1 2th AG Ord Sec 9, 14 Oct 44. (4) Nisley Interv. 
(5) USFET Bd Rpt No. 28, Ammunition Supply 
for Field Artillery, pp. 24-29. 



23 (1) 12th AG Ord Sec Jnl, 11 Oct 44; (2) 
Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 431; (3) Patton, 
War As I Knew It, p. 1 29. 

24 ( 1 ) Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the 
Armies, II, p. 243; (2) Memo, Maj Gen LeRoy 
Lutes, Director, Plans and Operations, ASF, for the 
Director of Supply, ASF, 22 Nov 44 [no sub], ASF 
Distr Div 400 ETO. 



AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 



303 



November) helped ammunition only indi- 
rectly. Buzz bomb attacks by the enemy 
made the harbor too dangerous for ships 
loaded with explosives, so that very little 
ammunition was ever landed there except 
90-mm. antiaircraft shells for the defense 
of the city. The diversion to Antwerp of 
other classes of supply did free Le Havre 
and Cherbourg to handle more ammuni- 
tion than had hitherto been possible. 

By January 1945, it had become all too 
plain that there was not enough produc- 
tion in the United States of badly needed 
mortar and artillery shells. This fact 
came out in answers to Eisenhower's urgent 
cables in the fall of 1944, in the findings 
of the Bull Mission that he sent back to 
the States in November, and in the investi- 
gation by General Somervell when he 
visited the theater in January, accompanied 
by General Campbell. Somervell came 
home convinced that all the resources of 
the United States ought to be directed to- 
ward supplying the European theater with 
the critical calibers of ammunition it 
needed. By then, time was running out. 
Production started up, but the effect would 
not be felt in the theater until April, when 
expenditures were dropping. Again, ships 
were turned around and sent home un- 
loaded — completing the cycle of frustra- 
tion at the ports. 25 



25 (1) Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 431. (2) 
Ord Serv ETO, Ammunition Supply, pp. 91-93, 
161-62. (3) Bykofsky and Larson, The Transporta- 
tion Corps: Operations Overseas, p. 322. (4) Cables 
1 Oct 44-12 Mar 45 in vol. 12, General File, 
BOLERO, ASF Theater Br, Planning Div files. (5) 
Diary (unsigned) of General Campbell's trip to 
Europe and Italy 6-31 Jan 45, Barnes file, OHF. 
(6) For problems in ammunition manufacture and 
supply, see Lt. Gen. Levin H. Campbell, Jr., The 
Industry-Ordnance Team (New York: McGraw- 
Hill Book Co., Inc., 1946), pp. 255-74. 



Using a great deal of German ammuni- 
tion, some of it fired from captured Ger- 
man guns, and employing tanks, tank de- 
stroyers, and antiaircraft guns ( all of which 
had fairly plentiful stocks of ammunition) 
as artillery, the armies somehow managed 
on their scanty rations until COMZ stocks 
were built up. At the end of November 
enough ammuntion had accumulated to 
allow VII Corps, which was pushing slow- 
ly to the Roer against strong defenses, to 
fire reasonable amounts of nearly all types, 
though V and VIII Corps were still inade- 
quately supplied. 26 

By mid-December, thanks to the belated 
build-up, the level of Ordnance general 
supplies in the armies was the highest since 
D-day, with the exception of a few items 
like truck engines. In the case of First 
Army, the Ordnance Section took a good 
share of the credit for bringing supplies 
forward from depots. While admitting 
that there was some improvement in rail 
transportation during November, Medaris' 
staff attributed most of the improvement in 
supply to its active liaison with COMZ 
and its continued use of army transporta- 
tion and army drivers to haul supplies to 
the front. 27 

This view was supported by Maj. Gen. 
LeRoy Lutes, Director of Plans and Oper- 
ations, Army Service Forces, when he made 
a visit to the European theater early in 
December. He found 53 percent of the 
scarce Class II and IV items far back in 
Normandy and Brittany, and noted that 



28 FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt, Nov 44, app. I. 

27 (1) 1 2th AG Rpt, Vol XII, p. 144. (2) FUSA 
Ord Monthly Rpt, Nov 44, app. IV. During Novem- 
ber FUSA received by rail 172 tanks and full- 
tracked vehicles, 129 other vehicles, and 2,229 
tons of bulk supplies; by Army Ordnance vehicles 
and drivers, 1,510 vehicles and 1,133 tons of bulk 
supplies. Ibid. 



304 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Medaris was employing a hundred men as 
field agents to follow up First Army ship- 
ments. To General Somervell, who backed 
up Lutes's findings on his own visit to ETO 
a month later, the worst reflection on Com- 
munications Zone that came to his atten- 
tion was the fact that Medaris was forced 
to have "ioo bloodhounds ranging over the 
entire Communications Zone in order to 
locate the items for and fill his requisi- 
tions." 28 

The Battle of the Ardennes 

At half past five on the morning of 16 
December, a black winter morning, Ger- 
man artillery shells began to light up the 
sky all along the broad front held by VIII 
Corps in the hitherto quiet region of the 
Ardennes. Later in the day shells from 
long-range railway guns similar to Anzio 
Annie began falling on supply dumps in the 
rear, at Roetgen, Eupen, Malmedy, Ver- 
viers, and St. Vith — not only in the VIII 
Corps sector but also in the southern half 
of the V Corps front; by nightfall there 
were indications that a strong German 
counteroffensive was under way in the 
lightly held section between the two corps. 29 

Danger at Malmedy 

The first Ordnance units threatened 
were those at Malmedy, supporting V 
Corps in its drive to the Roer dams. At 
Malmedy were the headquarters of the 
86th Ordnance Battalion and the iooth 



M Rpts by Lutes and Somervell quoted in Hines 
History, vol. Ill, pp. 562-79, OHF. 

20 ( 1 ) First Army Rpt 2, p. 103. (2) For a 
detailed tactical account of the Battle of the 
Ardennes, see Hugh M. Cole, The Ardennes: Battle 
of the Bulge, UNITED STATES ARMY IN 
WORLD WAR II (Washington, 1965). 



Ordnance Ammunition Battalion; several 
miles to the east near Waimes was ASP 
126, operated by the 57 th Ordnance Am- 
munition Company. By the morning of 1 7 
December it seemed quite possible to First 
Army headquarters that this ammunition 
supply point, which was strung out for 
three miles along a hard-surfaced road run- 
ning northeast out of Waimes, would be 
overrun by the enemy. Medaris ordered 
the commander of the iooth Battalion to 
get ready to blow up all mines, bangalore 
torpedoes, grenades, and other items likely 
to be of use to the Germans, and to evac- 
uate, if it was not too hazardous to men 
and equipment, the rest of the ammunition, 
especially scarce artillery and mortar shells. 
Reports that came in to First Army were 
more and more alarming. Shortly after 
noon, Colonel Ray took off in his jeep to 
supervise the evacuation. 30 (See Map 5) 

As soon as the commanding officer of the 
iooth, Maj. Alfred G. Garr, received Me- 
daris' order, he sent Capt. John N. Lee of 
his staff to ASP 126. Lee found the enemy 
close at hand. Stationing guards around 
the perimeter to warn him of the approach 
of the Germans, he sent two officers and 
ten men of the 57th Ordnance Ammuni- 
tion Company to prepare mines and engi- 
neer demolition materials for the destruc- 
tion of the ASP. This they accomplished 
in forty-five minutes, using three miles of 
prima cord. No materiel could be evacu- 
ated because the forty-five trucks ar- 
ranged for by the Ordnance officer of V 
Corps could not get through the traffic on 
the congested roads and never arrived. 
Neither did Colonel Ray, for he was cap- 
tured by the Germans near Waimes. 

At 1430 small arms fire as well as artil- 



History iooth Ammunition Bn, p. 58. 



AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 



305 



lery fire could be clearly heard at the ASP 
office, and the guards reported that the 
enemy was about a mile away. Captain 
Lee drove out to investigate, saw enemy 
troops supported by tanks, and gave orders 
to fire the prima cord and evacuate the 
ASP. With a great roar some 200 tons of 
explosives went up. The 57th loaded its 
men, its records, and some primers and 
fuzes on its own trucks and began to pull 
out for Depot 125 near Liege — just in time, 
for the Germans were closing in on their 
bivouac area. 31 

Next morning four men who went back 
to make a final check of the company 
quarters — Captain Carstaphen, the com- 
pany commander (who had led a charge 
that killed thirty-five Germans at Drian- 
court early in September) , 1st Lt. Arnold O. 
Putnam, M. Sgt. Chester A. McKinney 
and Pfc. Daniel Barber — narrowly escaped 
capture. Putnam and Barber were sur- 
prised by two German soldiers and forced 
to get down from their jeep and walk to- 
ward the enemy lines, hands over their 
heads. They broke away and managed to 
make their way to safety through a hail of 
machine gun bullets. Hearing the gunfire, 
Captain Carstaphen ran to the door of the 
building he had been inspecting, opened 
fire with his submachine gun, and killed 
both Germans. 32 

Pulling the 86th Ordnance Battalion 
out of Malmedy was an extremely difficult 
operation, for it was the back-up battalion 
for V Corps, and its depot company, the 
202d, had some 600 tons of stock that had 
to be saved. Aware of the situation by 
noon of the 17th, Medaris called on the 



72d Ordnance Group at Verviers to pro- 
vide the lift, and with the help of the tank 
transporters of the main army evacuation 
battalion (the 6th) and the trucks of the 
main depot battalion (the 310th) the job 
was done by nightfall. The last man out 
of Malmedy was said to be the command- 
ing officer of the 202d. While the load- 
ing was going on, the area was under artil- 
lery fire, and some of the men of the 86th 
got into combat. Members of its heavy 
maintenance (field army) company, the 
514th, took two tank destroyers out of its 
shops to help stop the enemy. They lost 
the tank destroyers, but claimed two Pan- 
ther tanks. 33 

Malmedy was saved by the valor of a few 
men from an Engineer combat battalion, 
the 291st, who defended the roads with 
such skill and tenacity that the Germans 
bypassed the town on the south. But by 
the evening of the 17 th the main First 
Army Ordnance depot at Aywaille was 
threatened. When Pfc. William Coleman 
of the 334th Ordnance Depot Company, 
who had been helping at Malmedy, got 
back to his company with his truck — after 
a circuitous 7-hour drive in blackout dur- 
ing which he had a close call from being 
captured — he was given a bazooka and 
sent to help hold a crossroads against Ger- 
man tanks. 34 

Defense of Aywaille 

The defense of Aywaille was in the capa- 
ble hands of Colonel Lynde, who had been 
sent to the depot by Medaris with orders to 



31 ( 1 ) History iooth Ammunition Bn, p. 58. (2) 
V Corps Ord Sec Rpt for Dec, AAR, Ord Sec, V 
Corps, European Campaign, Aug— Dec 44. 

32 Hist iooth Amm Bn, pp. 58-59. 



^FUSA Ord Sec Monthly Rpt for Dec, app. 
II, pp. 6-7; app. Ill, p. 1; app. IV, p. 2. 

34 (1) First Army Rpt 2, Vol I, p. 105. (2) 
Booklet, The Flaming Bomb: The Story of Ord- 
nance in the ETO, p. 23, OHF. 



306 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



hold out as long as possible in order to buy 
time for evacuation of the considerable 
stocks — 6,000 tons of bulk stock on the 
ground and 1,518 vehicles in the vehicle 
park. Lynde organized a task force com- 
posed of the four depot companies and one 
motor vehicle distributing company of the 
310th Ordnance Battalion; the automatic 
weapons antiaircraft battalion that had 
been protecting the vehicle park; a com- 
pany of Engineers; and a Belgian guard 
company. Some armed with bazookas, 
others manning depot tanks, these men set 
up roadblocks around the depot. 35 

Shortly after noon on 18 December 
Lynde received word from First Army Ord- 
nance that his task force would be bolstered 
by the 740th Tank Battalion, due to arrive 
that evening. The catch in this piece of 
good news was that the 740th had no tanks. 
It was one of four tank battalions under 
9th Armored Group that had been in train- 
ing for the highly secret Canal Defense 
Light (CDL), a project to employ power- 
ful searchlights mounted on M3 medium 
tanks to illuminate the battlefield and blind 
the enemy. The project had been aban- 
doned by 1 2th Army Group and the CDL 
tanks put in storage. The 740th was to be 
converted to a standard tank battalion but 
as yet had not received any Shermans and 
was being used to flush German paratroop- 
ers out of the woods around First Army 
headquarters at Spa. By the time the 
commander of the 740th reported at Ay- 
waille, about dark on 18 December, Lynde 



35 (1) FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt for Dec. (2) 
Ltr, Maj Gen Nelson M. Lynde, Jr., to Brig Gen 
Hal C. Pattison, 10 Oct 63 (hereafter cited as 
Lynde Comments), OCMH. Lynde believed that 
Aywaille was a target for the Germans because 
one of the depot companies had numerous drums 
of antifreeze that were mistaken from the air for 
POL. Ibid. 



had received a report that German armor 
was less than twelve miles to the east. He 
directed the Ordnance vehicle park to issue 
to the 740th anything the men could 
drive and shoot. The tankers found about 
15 medium tanks that could be made oper- 
able. They worked on them all night and 
all next morning, and also acquired from 
the park an assortment of tank destroyers, 
assault guns, and light tanks, including two 
new M24's that had just arrived from the 
United States. Thus equipped, by noon on 
19 December they were in position to de- 
fend Aywaille. Two hours later, on orders 
from General Hodges, the 740th was pulled 
out and attached to the 30th Infantry Divi- 
sion, which was having trouble with ad- 
vancing German armor. 30 

The original "Lynde's Task Force" 
manned defenses until 22 December, when 
combat forces arrived on the scene. By 
that time the depot stocks had been evacu- 
ated under the direction of Lt. Col. Lyman 
O. Heidtke, the 310th Battalion com- 
mander, who had been ordered to find a 
suitable spot west of the Meuse River and 
set up his depot. With the help of the tank 
transporters of the 6th Evacuation Battal- 



39 ( 1 ) Lynde Comments. (2) For the disband- 
ment of the CDL project see ltr, Lee to CG UK 
Base, 24 Sep 44, sub: Reorganization of 9th 
Armored Group, 12th AG Files 913, and below, 
p. 321. (3) Lt. Col. George Kenneth Rubel, Dare- 
devil Tankers: The Story of the 740th Tank Bat- 
talion, United States Army (n.p., i945)> PP- 53- 
56, 242-43. The tankers called the M24's "Panther 
Pups" because of their resemblance to the German 
Panther tank, Ibid., p. 107. These two M24's were 
in the depot by mistake, somehow diverted from the 
first shipment of 20, all consigned to Ninth Army. 
There was considerable consternation when the 
head of the familiarization mission discovered that 
the 740th Tank Battalion had carried them off. 
Memo, Col James E. B. Mclnerney for Col Walter 
W. Warner, Ord Officer NUSA, 28 Dec 44, in 
folder ETO (Mclnerney) (Rpt of Visit), 4 Jan 45, 
X-577-O, OHF. 



AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 



307 



ion, whose drivers maneuvered their big 
clumsy rigs skillfully through heavy traffic, 
and with the co-operation of Advance Sec- 
tion, which promptly furnished fifty-four 
additional truck-tractors needed to move 
the vans, all critical items were behind the 
Meuse by the evening of 19 December and 
three days later most of the rest of the 
stocks had been moved. By that time the 
temperature had dropped to freezing. The 
last of Heidtke's vans cleared the hills be- 
hind Aywaille only minutes before ice made 
the roads impassable. As for the Germans, 
they never arrived, but at one time had 
been within five miles of the depot. 37 

The VIII Corps Sector 

In the meantime, the prong of the Ger- 
man thrust had penetrated deep into the 
VIII Corps sector, seriously threatening 
and in places overrunning the Ordnance 
units supporting the corps, which were 
strung out along the Luxembourg border 
from St. Vith south to Neufchateau. In 
this hilly, wooded, snow-covered country 
the attack was like a nightmare. Before 
dawn on 16 December, 14-inch shells from 
railway guns began falling on St. Vith; up 
ahead on the 106th Division front in the 
Schnee Eifel, red and green flares flickered 
over the treetops, a strange light, like 
moonlight, came down from the low clouds 
that the German were using as reflectors 
for searchlights; and German infantrymen 
in white snow suits advanced yelling (some- 
one said it sounded like the Rebel yell) 
ahead of white tanks. 38 



37 (1) Lynde Comments. (2) FUSA Ord Month- 
ly Rpt for Dec, p. 2 and app. II, pp. 13-14; app. 
Ill, p. 2; app. IV, p. 2. (3) The Flaming Bomb, 
p. 22. 

38 Col. R. Ernest Dupuy, St. Vith: Lion in the 



The 1 06th Division held in the Schnee 
Eifel for the time being; but artillery shells 
continued to crash down on St. Vith. A 
good many of them fell in the area of the 
92d Ordnance Medium Maintenance Com- 
pany. This unit, dispatched to St. Vith 
only a few days before by the 590th Bat- 
talion to support the 106th, was pulled 
back fifteen miles to Gouvy, but the Ger- 
man tide, flowing north and south around 
the island of resistance at St. Vith, soon 
caught up with the 92d. Shortly after 
noon on the 1 8th as the men were finishing 
chow, "all hell broke loose." A German 
column came up and began directing ar- 
tillery, mortar, and small arms fire on the 
company, while panzers poured fire into 
the shop area. The g2d took off for 
Rochefort, fifty miles to the rear; but when 
it reached there two of its officers and sixty- 
three men were missing. These men had 
stayed behind at Gouvy to finish shop work 
on artillery and tanks, and they continued 
to work under shelling all afternoon. At 
night under cover of darkness they made 
their way to a low hillside behind the shop 
area and held it for five days, setting up 
roadblocks with wrecked and burning ve- 
hicles and killing the German patrols that 
came up the road. 39 

On the same day as the attack at Gouvy, 
18 December, the Germans overran ASP 
128, a few miles north of Bastogne. Here 
again, the Ordnance men stayed as long as 
they could. Men of the 619th Ordnance 
Ammunition Company were issuing am- 
munition in Subdepot 1 while the fighting 
was going on in Subdepot 3, but soon they 
had to pull back to Champion, abandoning 

Way (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 1949). 
pp. 21, 28. 

39 History 92d Ordnance Medium Maint Com- 
pany for Dec 1944, ETO Ord Sec, KCRC. 



308 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



almost 2,000 long tons of ammunition to 
the enemy. They did, however, manage to 
take with them stocks of a very important 
secret item — the POZIT or VT (proximi- 
ty) fuze. This new fuze, radio-operated 
and triggered by reflection from the tar- 
get, had been developed early in the war, 
but in order to keep the design out of the 
hands of the Germans its use had been re- 
stricted to use by the Navy in antiaircraft fire 
over water and by a few antiaircraft bat- 
teries in England until October 1944, when 
it was released by the Combined Chiefs of 
Staff for ground warfare. Eisenhower in- 
tended to employ the fuzes in artillery shells 
for the first time in Europe on Christmas 
Day 1944, at the beginning of a new drive 
into Germany. Teams of instructors had 
been visiting the front for several weeks, 
and in the comparatively quiet VIII Corps 
sector, served by ASP 128, a demonstration 
had been planned for 18 December. The 
fuzes were evacuated from the dump just 
in time to save them for an important role 
in the Battle of the Ardennes. 40 

The Germans were advancing with as- 
tonishing rapidity. Hardly was ASP 128A 
at Champion established when it too was 
in danger of being overrun. By 20 Decem- 
ber the VIII Corps sector was cut in two. 
Because of the split and because of his con- 
cern for the safety of the Ordnance troops 
in this precarious situation, Medaris at- 
tached the ammunition companies and the 
590th Maintenance Battalion to the VIII 
Corps Ordnance officer, Colonel Walker. 



40 ( 1 ) History 100th Ammunition Bn, p. 59; 
(2) FUSA Ord Rpt Dec 44, p. 3 and app. II, 
P- 7; (3) Green, Thomson, and Roots, Planning 
Munitions for War, pp. 363-66; (4) AGF Bd 
Rpt, ETO, No. 457, Pozit Fuzes, 15 Dec 44, 4- 
3.457/44; (5) Dupuy, St. Vith: Lion in the Way, 
P 25. 



On 21 December along with VIII Corps 
they passed to Third Army. 41 

The last link between the VIII Corps 
Ordnance units and First Army was Major 
Garr, the commanding officer of the 100th 
Ordnance Ammunition Battalion. Start- 
ing south from Aachen on 1 9 December to 
check on operations at ASP 128A, he dis- 
covered at VIII Corps headquarters that 
ASP 128A would have to be evacuated. A 
large rail shipment had been diverted from 
ASP 128 to 128A, and Major Garr found 
himself involved in the desperate attempt 
to shuttle the shipment — 1 1 o freight cars 
carrying 45,000 rounds of 105-mm. how- 
itzer and 10,000 rounds of 155-mm. how- 
itzer ammunition — to Bertrix. Arriving at 
the Bertrix railhead early on the morning of 
20 December with the men and equipment 
evacuated from ASP 128 A — 2 ammunition 
companies, a Quartermaster service com- 
pany, an antiaircraft battery, a platoon of 
armored infantry with 5 half-tracks, 20 
Quartermaster trucks, and 4 MP's — he 
organized this force for the defense of the 
railhead, set up his command post in the 
office of the stationmaster, and began issu- 
ing ammunition out of the freight cars to 
VIII Corps units. 

Later on in the morning he co-ordinated 
plans for defense with Lt. Col. George H. 
Wells, the commanding officer of the 590th 
Maintenance Battalion, which had arrived 
in Bertrix from Neufchateau the day be- 
fore, setting up its shops and bins in the 
town square and opening its mess facilities 
to casuals and stragglers. Wells took four 
medium tanks and a half-track out of his 
heavy maintenance shop, manned them 
with an officer and 20 mechanics of the 



41 ( 1 ) History 100th Ammunition Bn, p. 59. (2) 
Medaris, Letter of Instructions No. 3, 19 Dec 44, 
FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt, Dec 44, app. II. 



AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 



309 



553d Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Com- 
pany (Tank), and sent them out to set up 
roadblocks at vital junctions; but shortly 
after noon enemy tanks were reported and 
the 590th got ready to pull out. Garr was 
left with the job of defending Bertrix until 
he could get his freight train rolling again. 
Sending out his armored infantrymen and 
antiaircraft battery to take over the road- 
blocks, Garr persuaded the Bertrix chef 
de gare to supply him with some locomo- 
tives and got his train on the road south 
about midnight. At Florenville he received 
instructions from Colonel Walker to pro- 
ceed to the railhead at Virton, on the 
French border. Arriving there the next 
afternoon, he again organized his task force 
for defense and spent the night issuing am- 
munition to units of the 28th Division. 
Next day an advance party of Third Army's 
150th Battalion arrived to take over, and 
Major Garr returned to First Army. 42 

North of the Bulge 

When he returned he found that all of 
First Army Ordnance Service except the 
direct support units was pulling back be- 
hind the Meuse, roughly in the area from 
Liege west to Namur and north to Tongres 
and St. Trond, with the 72d, 51st, and 
52d Group headquarters centered around 
Huy, the new location of First Army head- 
quarters, and the main ammunition depot 
now located at Advance Section Depot 
O-610 west of Liege. Medaris had ordered 
the move on 1 9 December in order to clear 
the roads for the tactical troops. The situa- 



tion north of the bulge was still of the kind 
described in dispatches as "fluid." For ex- 
ample, ASP 126 near Waimes had been 
officially evacuated early in the battle, but 
every day a detachment of one officer and 
twenty enlisted men from the 57th Ammu- 
nition Company was able to return and 
issue ammunition from one end of the ASP, 
although it was under enemy artillery and 
machine gun fire. There is a story that 
while the Americans were issuing at one 
end, the Germans were issuing at the other. 
True or not, it illustrates the fantastic char- 
acter of this battle. 43 

Alarming rumors were spreading through 
the First Army area, and some of them 
were true. Medaris passed along a warn- 
ing from G-2 that 150 Germans in Ameri- 
can uniforms, in American jeeps, with iden- 
tification tags and papers, were behind the 
Allied lines. These were the men of Otto 
Skorzeny's Operation GREIF sent to spy on 
vital installations, disrupt communications, 
change road signs, and generally cause con- 
fusion. One of the Germans impersonated 
an MP at a road junction and directed an 
entire American regiment down the wrong 
road as it was hurrying south to fight. At 
Ay waille on the night of 1 8 December three 
of the GREIF men in a U.S. jeep, with GI 
dogtags and drivers' licenses, $900 in Amer- 
ican money and 1,000 British pound notes, 
and plenty of demolition material, were 
caught in the 178th Ordnance Depot Com- 
pany area by three men of the company, 
S. Sgt. Erling N. Salvesen, Technician 5 
John E. Pavlik, and Technician 5 Har- 
court W. Swanson. German paratroopers 
were also dropped behind the lines. None 



42 ( 1 ) History iooth Ammunition Bn, pp. 59- 
62. (2) VIII Corps Ord Sec Jnl for Dec 44, in 
VIII Corps Staff Sec Jnls, L540, Envelope 29. 
(3) History 553d Ord Heavy Maint Co (Tank), 
ETO Ord Sec, KCRC. 



43 ( 1 ) FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt Dec 44, app. 
II, pp. 5-12, and Exhibit 23, FUSA Ord Serv 
Letter of Instructions No. 3, 19 Dec 44; (2) 
History iooth Ammunition Bn, p. 59. 



310 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




Colonel Bliss Salutes Sergeant Salvesen and Technicians Pavlik and 
Swanson after they received Bronze Stars for capturing three German spies of Operation 
Greif. 



of these spies did any great damage, but 
they contributed to the shock and confusion 
of the sudden enemy attack that had already 
scattered units and disrupted communica- 
tions. 44 

Telephone communications from First 
Army headquarters were either uncertain 
or suspected of being tapped by the enemy, 
and close to the front they had broken 
down entirely; the last wire communication 
the 52d Group had with any of its units 
was the telephone call that ordered the 



" (i) Robert E. Merriam, Dark December (New 
York: Ziff-Davis Publishing Co., 1947), PP- 126- 
30. (2) FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt Dec 44, app. II, 
p. 14. (3) Hist 178th Ord Depot Co, 21-31 Dec 
43-' 944- (4) H i st 334th Ord Depot Co, 20 Nov- 
Dec 43-Dec 44. 



86th Battalion to withdraw from Malmedy 
on the afternoon of 17 December. Tele- 
type was out more often than not, and mes- 
senger service was all but impossible, what 
with the constant movement of units, the 
uncertainty of the battle, and the traffic 
congestion on the rough and icy roads. 
Radio was the only dependable means of 
getting reports and issuing orders. 45 

Medaris' radio net, which had been ex- 
tremely useful in the two or three weeks of 
fast pursuit in August and early September, 
was not really needed after the Ordnance 
units settled into semipermanent installa- 



45 ( 1 ) FUSA Ord Sec Monthly Rpt, Dec 44, 
app. II, p. 3. (2) Col. James D. Sams, "Com- 
munications in Army Ordnance Service," Military 
Review, XXVII, 1 (May 1947), P- 53- 



AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 



311 



tions before the Siegfried Line because wire 
communications were good and messenger 
service was excellent. Daily messenger 
service was maintained between the 52d 
Ordnance Group and the First Army Ord- 
nance officer and between the group and 
each of its six battalions. After i October, 
teletype — a tremendous saving in time over 
delivery by messenger — came into use be- 
tween army Ordnance, groups, depots, and 
ASP's for conveying allocations and supply 
status reports, which were too long for 
transmission by radio. 46 Following the 
capture of Aachen on 21 October, wire 
communications became so reliable, except 
in the remote Ardennes area, that army 
radio circuits to V and VII Corps were 
closed down. 47 

The fact that the Ordnance radio net 
was not really needed during the long au- 
tumn pause at the Siegfried Line did not 
pass unnoticed at First Army headquar- 
ters. Hodges' chief of staff, Maj. Gen. 
William B. Kean, was critical of Medaris' 
"radio empire" and finally, about the 
middle of the second week in December, 
ordered the Ordnance net taken off the air. 
There was nothing to do but comply: 
Medaris issued written orders closing 
down the net. But at the same time, 
he issued verbal orders to retain all equip- 
ment and personnel. 48 By that time he had 
a number of well-trained men; First Army 
Signal Service for some time had been 
operating a school especially for training 
Ordnance personnel as radio operators. 49 



40 (1) Ibid. (2) Hist 1 ooth Amm Bn, p. no. 
At one time the 100th tried to use pigeons, but 
without much luck. Ibid. 

" First Army Rpt 2, Annex 8, Signal Section Rpt, 
p. 177. 

48 Medaris Interv 

"First Army Rpt 2, Annex 8, Signal Sec Rpt, 



When the Germans struck suddenly in 
the Ardennes, threatening the First Army 
supply dumps, General Kean sent for Me- 
daris and ordered him to pull his supplies 
back. Medaris pointed out that he could 
not because he had no radio net. Kean 
knew Medaris well, for he had served with 
him a long time. He said, "I'll bet you 
could put it back in two hours. Now do it, 
and don't come back to me." Within two 
hours, Medaris was sending out orders by 
radio, and within two days, after operators 
had been recalled to headquarters and ad- 
ditional equipment procured from Signal, 
the whole net (except for the previous hook- 
up with corps), was in operation. 50 

With the aid of the radio net, Medaris 
got about 85 percent of his depot stocks out 
of reach of the enemy, and for the duration 
of the Battle of the Bulge never lost contact 
with his First Army Ordnance units. He 
could keep the men from panicking; could 
pick up the radio and reassure them, telling 
them where the Germans were and what 
to do. This kind of central control and 
reassurance was immensely valuable. And 
the radio net came to be valuable not only 
to Ordnance but to G— 3, which relied on 
it at times for information on where the 
combat units were. 51 

Medaris' first order over the radio net 
was: "Evacuate ... but stay in business. 
Our troops need your service now, more 
than ever." His men responded bravely. 
Depot men, even while they were loading 
up their stocks to pull out, continued their 
task of supply; at Aywaille, for example, 
they issued directly to combat units, some 
of whom were quoted as expressing "no 
little pleasure at having the Main Army 



50 (1) Medaris Interv. (2) FUSA Ord Monthly 
Rpt Dec 44, app. II, p. 3. 

51 Medaris and Nisley Intervs. 



312 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Depot so handy for the first time since the 
Normandy days." 52 Ammunition men 
kept ASP's open as long as they could, even 
while under enemy fire; and maintenance 
men made repairs on the run. The 590th 
Battalion, for instance, managed to com- 
plete 4,000 repair jobs on the 100-mile 
trek from St. Vith to Neufchateau. The 
recovery crews followed close on the heels 
of the infantry counterthrusts over the icy, 
foggy, roads to drag back big guns and 
tanks that had been knocked out by the 
enemy or abandoned by retreating units. 
One crew saved eight huge 240-mm. how- 
itzers, in good working order, that had been 
abandoned. Another brought back a great 
trophy — a German 71 -ton Tiger Royal 
tank. 53 

Every American tank that could be recov- 
ered and put back in operation was a tri- 
umph, because First Army units that bore 
the brunt of the first Bulge attacks had suf- 
fered heavy losses in armor. Every replace- 
ment tank in Ordnance stocks was imme- 
diately committed, but there was still a 
serious shortage — all the more serious be- 
cause the First Army command felt that 
tanks would be the determining factor in 
restoring its position later. There was one 
resource within the theater — the plentiful 
Shermans held in reserve by Field Marshal 
Montgomery's 21 Army Group. On 19 
December, Medaris, who knew how ample 
these stocks were, went to 2 1 Army Group 
headquarters at Brussels to appeal to Mont- 
gomery's "Q" (Quartermaster — in Ameri- 
can terms, G-4) for the loan of a moder- 
ate number. He was turned down on the 



ground that every tank Montgomery had 
was vitally needed by his own group. 54 

The next day, 20 December, as a result 
of Eisenhower's decision to place all Amer- 
ican forces north of the Bulge under Mont- 
gomery, First Army passed temporarily to 
21 Army Group. The following morning, 
some 300 Shermans were rolling out of 
Brussels to the shops of Medaris' 7 2d Ord- 
nance Group at Landres, together with a 
number of British 25-pounders with 30 
days of ammunition. Then began a stren- 
uous effort to get the tanks ready for battle. 
By friendly agreement between Medaris 
and the First Army Signal officer, Col. 
Grant Williams, Signal radio installation 
and repair teams were already operating 
with Ordnance tank maintenance compa- 
nies. With their assistance and that of a 
few hundred Belgian laborers and volun- 
teers from a battalion of Irish Guards, three 
Ordnance companies made the tanks battle- 
ready — U.S. radios installed, tanks combat- 
loaded with rations and ammunition, and 
duckbill tracks applied — in the remarkably 
short time of ninety-six hours. After the 
production line went into operation, tanks 
were being issued out the front door of the 
shop as fast as others came in the back. 55 

In the realignment of forces that took 
place on 20-21 December, VIII Corps 
went to Third Army and First Army re- 
ceived XVIII Airborne Corps. This corps 
consisted of an airborne division hitherto 



62 FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt for Dec, app. II, p. 14. 

" ( 1 ) "Bulge Battle," Firepower, Vol. I, No. 6 
(April-May 1945), p. 9; (2) Merriam, Dark De- 
cember, p. 132; (3) FUSA Ord Sec Monthly Rpt, 
Dec, app. Ill, Incl 4. 



64 ( 1 ) During December First Army lost about 
400 medium tanks. First Army Rpt 2, I, p. 64, 
and Annex 9, p. 23. During the Battle of the Bulge, 
the total First Army tank losses were 510. USFET 
Board Rpt, Ord Sec Study No. 96, Requirement 
for Ordnance Recovery Company. The 21 Army 
Group's reserves in the United Kingdom totaled 
1,900. Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the 
Armies II, p. 241. (2) Ltr, Medaris to Pattison, 
28 Oct 63. 

"(i) Ibid. (2) Lynde Comments. 



AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 



313 



held in reserve, the 82d; scattered remnants 
of the 106th Division; Combat Command 
B of the gth Armored; and the 7th Armored 
Division. Its mission was to hold north of 
the Bulge. To suppore XVIII Corps, Me- 
daris took the 83d Battalion that had been 
backing up the 590th (now far south at 
Neuf chateau with VIII Corps) and con- 
verted it to a forward battalion, stationing 
it south of Liege; to back up the 83d he 
used the 178th, which had hitherto been 
employed only administratively to augment 
the 52 d Group headquarters, as a backup 
battalion, assigning to it the usual depot, 
automotive maintenance, and heavy tank 
maintenance companies. Thanks to Me- 
daris' training program, the changeover 
was accomplished smoothly. 56 

A maintenance company supporting 7th 
Armored Division had already covered itself 
with glory. On the afternoon of 19 Decem- 
ber, Company C of the 129th Ordnance 
Maintenance Battalion had manned a road- 
block on the Ourthe River at Ortho, using 
three bazookas, two machine guns, twenty 
riflemen, and a half-track salvaged from a 
knocked-out antiaircraft unit. Company C 
held the riverbank under shellfire from a 
German self-propelled 88-mm. gun and two 
tanks until early evening, when help ar- 
rived. Actions like this, according to the 
official tactical history of the battle, "con- 
tributed mightily to the German decision 
which turned an entire armored corps from 
the road west and plunged it into profitless 
adventures in a side alley." 57 



Bastogne and Third Army 
Ordnance 

While the action at Ortho was taking 
place, the 101st Airborne Division was set- 
ting up its defenses at Bastogne. Along 
with the 82 d Airborne Division, the 101st 
had been pulled out of SHAEF reserve on 
1 7 December ; but instead of going to First 
Army with the XVIII Airborne Corps, 
the 101st had been sent from Mourmelon, 
its rest camp near Reims, to bolster the 
shattered VIII Corps front. The division 
left in such a hurry that it lacked a good 
deal of its individual equipment, such as 
overshoes and helmets; its ammunition 
and grenade pouches were not full; and 
it had only a few truckloads of 105-mm. 
howitzer shells. 

Brig. Gen. Anthony C. McAulifTe, acting 
commanding officer of the 101st, was not, 
however, particularly worried. COMZ had 
been notified by 12th Army Group to equip 
the 101st on highest priority, and with the 
help of Oise Section the division's organic 
426th Airborne Quartermaster Company 
and 80 1 st Airborne Ordnance Company 
were putting together a convoy of eighty 
vehicles loaded with supplies. On the 
morning of 1 9 December the convoy started 
east from Mourmelon to Bastogne. The 
Ordnance company traveling with it was 
thoroughly experienced; it had been sup- 
porting the division since the landing at 
Utah Beach, including the drop in Opera- 
tion Market-Garden in which fifteen men 
of the company had gone in by glider. 58 



58 FUSA Ord Monthly Rpt Dec 44, app. II, 
pp. 11-12; and Incl 19, FUSA Ord Sec Opera- 
tions Order No. 38, 22 Dec 44. 

67 (1) History 129th Ord Maint Bn, Sep, Oct, 
Nov 18-21 Dec 44, Jan-Aug 45. (2) Cole, The 
Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, p. 320. 



68 (1) Cole, The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge, 
p. 461. (2) 1 2th Army Group, Daily Jnl Ord Sec, 
18 Dec 44. (3) History 426th Airborne QM Co, 
101st Airborne Div, 6 Jun-12 Jul, Dec 44-Feb 45, 
Apr-May 45. (4) History 801st Airborne Ord 
Maint Co, Oct 1942-45. 



314 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



After a journey of more than a hundred 
miles through rain and snow, the convoy 
reached the division rear area about five 
miles west of Bastogne near midnight and 
was told to remain at a crossroads in the 
woods. The men had just parked their 
trucks on Highway N4 facing west when 
a German armored patrol attacked. Two 
of the end vehicles received direct hits; 
four more were abandoned by their 
drivers, who took to the woods. Pulling 
out in the greatest confusion, the convoy 
headed west, then south, winding up at 
VIII Corps headquarters at Neufchateau 
next morning. En route the 801st Air- 
borne Ordnance Company had lost sev- 
eral jeeps, trucks, howitzers, and trailers, 
including a valued British airborne arc- 
welding trailer. The men did not give up 
the attempt to reach their division. The 
commanding officer of the 801st, Capt. 
John L. Patterson, managed to make his 
way to Bastogne with two trucks contain- 
ing 500 gallons of gasoline. He went back 
to bring the rest of the convoy forward, 
but by this time the Germans had closed 
the road. On 21 December, VIII Corps 
ordered the Ordnance and Quartermaster 
companies out of Neufchateau, which was 
becoming too congested, and sent them 
ten miles south to Orsainfaing. There 
they remained until after the Third Army, 
coming up from the south, had opened 
a narrow corridor into Bastogne on 26 
December. 59 



69 ( 1 ) History 801st Airborne Ord Maint Co, Oct 
1942-45, and AAR, 6 Jun 44-Dec 45. (2) History 
426th Airborne QM Co, 101st Airborne Div, 6 Jun- 
12 Jul, Dec 44-Feb, Apr-May 45. (3) Colonel S. 
L. A. Marshall, Bastogne, The Story of the First 
Eight Days (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 
1946), pp. 71-72. Marshall's account is taken from 
an interview with Lt. Col. Carl W. Kohls, G-4 of 
the 101st. 



The news of the crossroads debacle in 
the service area on the night of 19-20 De- 
cember came to McAuliffe in the form of 
a laconic message, "Evidence indicates 
service troops have disappeared." He im- 
mediately sent a message to corps asking 
for Quartermaster and Ordnance help. 
He had already explored the resources in 
Bastogne itself. Slim stocks of food and 
ammunition had been left behind by VIII 
Corps, and the tankers had even dis- 
covered eight new undelivered tanks, com- 
plete with their Ordnance crews, which 
were forthwith inducted into Combat 
Command B, 10th Armored Division. On 
the first day of the siege a young supply 
sergeant of the 101st had made a dash to 
the rear and brought back about 1,550 
rounds of M2 105-mm. howitzer ammuni- 
tion through German shelling and small 
arms fire. McAuliffe knew by then that 
his supply route was closed. But he was 
full of confidence on the morning of 22 
December when he replied "Nuts!" to the 
Germans' demand for surrender. He had 
received word that Third Army's 4th 
Armored Division was on its way north 
to relieve him and he had been promised 
resupply by air. The first drop, on the 23d, 
was disappointing, for it did not bring in 
enough artillery ammunition, McAuliffe's 
greatest need; at one time on 24 De- 
cember the airborne batteries were down 
to 10 rounds per gun and the field artil- 
lery units were running low. But the drops 
on the 24th and 26th (the biggest airlift 
day, with 289 planes) eased the shortage 
and on the 26th the 4th Armored Divi- 
sion opened its 300-yard corridor into the 
town, through which next day a convoy 
of more than a hundred vehicles, escorted 
by 4th Armored Division tanks, arrived 



AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 



315 




Tanks of the 4th Armored Division Near Bastogne 



from Orsainfaing. 60 

The siege of Bastogne was over, but the 
battle was not. When the 8oist Airborne 
Ordnance Company arrived in Bastogne 
over snow-covered roads at dusk on 29 
December, it was greeted by an enemy 
artillery and strafing attack that continued 
for days. On that fateful day of 26 De- 
cember when the siege was lifted, the main 
German thrust toward Antwerp had been 
blocked by First Army at the Meuse, and 
the Germans had turned south to attack 
Bastogne in force. Now the task of stop- 



60 ( 1 ) Marshall, Bastogne: The First Eight Days, 
pp. 70-71, 133-34. (2) Cole, The Ardennes: Bat- 
tle of the Bulge, pp. 467-70, 480. (3) Leonard 
Rapport and Arthur Northwood, Jr., Rendezvous 
With Destiny (Washington: Infantry Journal Press, 
1948), pp. 596-97. 



ping them belonged to Third Army, which 
was battling its way north through 
Luxembourg. 

General Bradley had ordered Third 
Army to the relief of Bastogne on the night 
of 18 December. In less than a week 
Patton turned the bulk of his army, with 
its guns, supplies, and equipment, from its 
bridgehead at the Saar north into the new 
offensive, a trek of 50 to 75 miles over 
difficult terrain and in bitter cold. From 
his office window in the city of Luxem- 
bourg Bradley watched the Third Army- 
columns as they marched north, day after 
day, night after night through the streets of 
the city, the tank commanders at their tur- 
rets with their faces wrapped in woolen 
scarves, the troops huddled in their canvas- 



316 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



topped trucks, wearing heavy overcoats still 
caked with the mud of the Saar. This 90- 
degree movement of an army on very short 
notice was a remarkable feat of generalship ; 
and it depended to a great extent on what 
Bradley characterized as a "brilliant ef- 
fort" on the part of Patton's staff. Patton 
himself gave his Ordnance officer, Colonel 
Nixon, a large share of the credit. 61 

In breaking the news to his staff, Patton 
said, "You will support this operation even 
though it is impossible to do so." Nixon 
himself felt that Ordnance support was 
made possible then, as in previous crises, 
by Patton's custom of keeping his Ord- 
nance officer fully informed of his plans 
and authorizing him to act in his general's 
name. If information had had to go 
through orthodox G— 4 channels, support 
would have arrived too late. 62 

Within thirty minutes after Patton gave 
his order, Nixon had runners out to block 
the roads and turn the ammunition trucks 
toward Luxembourg. He also quickly di- 
verted all incoming rail shipments of am- 
munition to the northern flank of the Third 
Army boundary, detailing a maintenance 
battalion headquarters to help co-ordinate 
the shipments. Nixon used every kind of 
transportation he could lay his hands on 
to move forward ammunition that was on 
the ground. By 26 December he had 
opened at Mamer an ASP to support the 
two Third Army corps that were attacking 
to the north, the III and XII Corps, and 



01 (1) AAR, 80 1 st Airborne Ord Maint Co., 6 
Jun 44-Dec. 45. (2) Bradley, A Soldier's Story, pp. 
472-73- (3) Col. William Whipple, "Logistical 
Problems During the German Ardennes Offensive," 
Military Review, XXVIII, i (April 1948), 23. (4) 
Patton, War As I Knew It, p. 196. 

82 ( 1 ) Interv, Col Thomas H. Nixon (USA Ret), 
18 Feb 64, OCMH. (2) Nixon Comments, pp. 
20-21. 



another near Robelmont to support VIII 
Corps in conjunction with the rail siding 
at Virton. Behind corps ASP's, Depot 32 
near Audun-Le-Roman, previously sche- 
duled to be turned over to ADSEC, was 
now heavily restocked and immediately 
became very active; ADSEC Depot O-61 1 
was instructed to make retail issues to 
combat units regardless of existing credits. 
All types of ammunition had to be pro- 
vided at as many points as possible, since 
Nixon did not know the exact composition 
of the troops that had become dependent 
on Third Army for support. 63 

First Army tactical and service troops 
that had become separated from their com- 
mands now came under Third Army, with 
the Ordnance units directly under Nixon's 
control. Some of the combat organiza- 
tions were badly crippled, not only from 
battle losses but from accidents on the icy 
roads. 64 One observer in the Ardennes 
reported that "you would have thought an 
armored column had gone mad to watch 
its vehicles careening off trees, crashing 
through the corners of houses on turns. 
The thirty-three-ton tanks spun crazily on 
the gentlest slopes, sometimes turning com- 
pletely around two or three times before 
they came to rest. In a day's move, an 
armored division might lose several hun- 
dred of its vehicles, wrecked, mired, over- 
turned. The maintenance crews blew on 
their fingers and sweated with their gear 
as they came up behind and tried to find 
places to anchor their cables so that they 
could pull the casualties back onto some- 
thing on which they could run." 65 To 



93 ( 1 ) Nixon Interv of 19 May 61. (2) Third 
Army Rpt II, Ord Sec, p. 18. (3) History ADSEC 
Ordnance, p. 20. 

M Third Army Rpt II, Ord Sec, p. 1 7. 

05 Ingersoll, Top Secret, p. 248. 



AT THE SIEGFRIED LINE IN BELGIUM 



317 



provide better traction, the maintenance 
companies welded steel "tacks" or cleats 
to the tracks, scrounging welding equip- 
ment from the neighborhood when they 
lacked it, improvising the cleats, and work- 
ing night and day. One unit, by cutting 
steel cubes from the side of the track itself 
and welding them on the track face, was 
able to report: "Within a few days every 
tank on our schedule was equipped and 
clopping across the ice like a mountain 
goat." 66 

Freeing his forward group for work in 
the north, Nixon turned over all mainte- 
nance west of the Moselle and south of 
Luxembourg to his rear group, the 70th, 
which got considerable help from a COMZ 
base armament maintenance battalion (the 
607th) at Nancy on supplies and repair 
work in the area south of Metz. From his 
own office in Nancy he sent several men 
to Luxembourg to act as a forward liaison 
group and report on troops, installations, 
and shortages. 67 

The effort involved in getting Third 
Army Ordnance support forward in a hur- 
ry is illustrated by the experiences of the 
841st Depot Company and the 32d Me- 
dium Maintenance, both assigned to the 
forward Ordnance battalion behind XII 
Corps, the 314th. The commanding of- 
ficer of the 841st received orders on 21 
December to move his entire depot, as well 
as a pool of combat vehicles and heavy 



trucks, to Luxembourg at once from Saar- 
albe (east of the Saar River in France), 
a distance of a hundred miles. The con- 
voy was on the road by noon — 163 vehi- 
cles, more vehicles than the company had 
men, manned by every driver they could 
borrow. On the way, the convoy was 
strafed twice by German planes, but in- 
curred no damage and arrived that night 
at Dudelange on the Luxembourg border. 
Finding the town covered with snow in 
the light of a full moon the men parked 
their vans around the town hall. By morn- 
ing they had issued 25 tons of parts and 
small arms and several combat vehicles. 
That night the 32d Medium Maintenance 
convoy arrived, having traveled ninety 
miles from Oermingen (near Saare Un- 
ion), and set up shop in a school yard on 
a windswept hill. 

By New Year's Day of 1945 both com- 
panies had pushed north again, the 841st 
to the city of Luxembourg (rendering 
"splendid service" to XII Corps, accord- 
ing to the commanding officer, Maj. Gen. 
Manton S. Eddy). The 32d had traveled 
even farther, over a winding road through 
a forest to the village of Gonderange, 
where it remained — working in the cold 
streets, or in cowsheds or any covered space 
they could find — until the Battle of the 
Bulge was won and Third Army had 
moved on to take its place in the move- 
ment of all the armies into Germany. 68 



66 (1) Third Army Rpt II, Ord Sec, p. 20; (2) 
Capt. Fred A. Tadini, "The Ol' 2nd," Firepower, 
II, 2 (August-September 1945), p. 4. 

67 Third Army Rpt II, Ord Sec, pp. 17-20. 



68 (1) Capt. Lenard C. Fuller, CO of the 841st, 
Letter to the Editor, in "Mail and Record," Fire- 
power, II, 2 (August-September 1945). (2) His- 
tories, 841st Ord Depot Co., pp. 73-81, 96; 32d 
Ordnance Medium Maint Co. Both in ETO Ord 
Sec Histories, KCRC. 



CHAPTER XVII 



Lessons of the Roer and the Ardennes 



In preparing for the coming battle for 
Germany, army commanders had some so- 
bering reflections on the quality of some of 
their weapons — notably tanks. Painful les- 
sons had been learned not only in the 
Ardennes but in Ninth Army's offensive on 
the Roer plain in November 1944. In 
this short but bloody battle Ninth Army, 
the latest to enter the European campaign, 
had earned the respect of the seasoned 
veterans of First and Third Armies and 
justified its proud code name, Conquer. 

Ninth Army Ordnance 

"Unlike the noisy and bumptious Third 
and the temperamental First, the Ninth re- 
mained uncommonly normal," according to 
General Bradley. 1 One reason for the nor- 
mality of Ninth Army was its youth. Though 
it resented being called a new army, be- 
cause its headquarters had worked to- 
gether for two years, first in the United 
States and later in England, in terms of 
the European campaign it was young, and 
in a sense it was like a family's youngest 
child that arrives when father is coming 
up in the world. Not until mid-Novem- 
ber did Ninth Army have the responsibil- 
ity for supporting a full-scale offensive. By 
then, the worst of the period of hard times 
in supply was over, and the opening of 



1 Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 453. 



Antwerp a few weeks later heralded the 
beginning of the era of plenty. 

Arriving on the Continent at the end of 
August, the Ninth's headquarters on 5 Sep- 
tember assumed command of one corps, 
the VIII, with the mission of reducing the 
Brittany peninsula and protecting the south 
flank of 1 2th Army Group along the Loire. 
At that time VIII Corps was operating as 
an independent corps with direct access 
to Communications Zone, an arrangement 
that continued until the reduction of Brest 
on 18 September. After Brest and the 
mass surrender of the German forces along 
the Loire following Dragoon, Ninth Army 
was sent with VIII Corps to a quiet sector 
in southern Belgium and Luxembourg be- 
tween First and Third Armies, with a de- 
fensive mission only; it remained there for 
most of October, a small army indeed, for 
VIII Corps had only two divisions. Then 
the Ninth was ordered to take over a small 
portion of the 12th Army Group zone 
north of Aachen to build up for a drive 
to the Rhine in conjunction with First 
Army. Relinquishing VIII Corps to First 
Army, Ninth on 22 October moved its 
command post to Maastricht, in the Dutch 
panhandle, taking over XIX Corps, which 
was already in position near Aachen with 
two infantry divisions, the 30th and 29th, 
and one armored, the 2d. On 8 Novem- 
ber, a second corps was added, the XIII. 
Ninth was still a small army compared with 



LESSONS OF THE ROER AND THE ARDENNES 



319 



First and Third, and was to be concen- 
trated on a very much narrower front than 
either. 2 

The Ordnance officer of Ninth Army, 
Col. Walter W. Warner, had not been af- 
fected by the supply famine in September 
and October on anything like the same 
scale as Medaris and Nixon; nor had he 
shared their unhappy experiences in the 
Mediterranean. For his part, Warner as- 
cribed his good supply situation mainly to 
his excellent relationship with Communica- 
tions Zone, which he cultivated by refusing 
to blame COMZ for all deficiencies, and 
by refraining from demanding priorities. 
When Medaris' executive officer, Col. 
Floyd A. Hansen, noted one day that 
Ninth Army was receiving more supplies 
than First Army and telephoned COMZ 
to ask why, he was told that the men at 
COMZ were going to look after Warner 
because they figured Medaris and Nixon 
could look after themselves. 3 

If Ninth Army's late arrival in the 
theater was an advantage in terms of sup- 
ply, it was a disadvantage in terms of serv- 
ice troops, for it occurred at a time when 
6th Army Group in the south was clamor- 
ing for supporting units. Warner arrived 
on the Continent with one medium main- 
tenance company only, and had to build 
up his Ordnance service from scratch. 
When the long move from Brittany to Bel- 
gium took place, most of the companies he 
was to acquire were still with First and 



2 (i) Renner Rpt, p. 37. (2) Conquer: The 
Story of Ninth Army, 1944-194.5 (Washington: 
Infantry Journal Press, 1947), pp. 20-82. (3) Ord 
Serv ETO, Class II and IV Supply, pp. 465-68, 
OHF. (4) For the plans for the drive to the 
Rhine, see MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Cam- 
paign, pp. 390-407. 

3 ( 1 ) Interv, Col Walter W. Warner, USA Ret, 
12 Jun 64. (2) Hansen Interv. 




Colonel Warner 

Third Armies, and others were en route 
from England or the United States. No 
sooner had he begun the concentration of 
men and supplies in Belgium and Luxem- 
bourg than orders came to move to Hol- 
land. Communications Zone and Advance 
Section came to his assistance with trans- 
portation and supplies, but the supplies that 
poured in added to his manpower problem 
because he had only one depot company. 4 
When the Ordnance Ninth Army man- 
power build-up began around Maastricht, 
the next problem was to find locations 
for the Ordnance companies in an area 
crowded with American and British troops 
and soggy with November rains. Ammuni- 
tion depots and vehicle parks were set up 
at roadsides. Maintenance and depot com- 



4 ( 1 ) Ruppenthal, Logistical Support of the 
Armies, II, pp. 299-301; (2) Col. W. W. Warner, 
"Ordnance at the Front," Army Ordnance, XXIX, 
•5 1 (July-August 1945), pp. 99-1 01. 



320 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



panies found shelter in factories, or even 
caves, or worked in the open on paved 
streets. In the congested Maastricht area, 
many of the newly arrived Ordnance 
troops saw their first German V-i bombs, 
at night, a steady, orange-red flame against 
the black sky, and day and night heard 
their motors, variously described as a "roar- 
ing thunder" or a "guttural burble." Most 
of the V-i's passed over on their way to 
Antwerp, but some exploded in the neigh- 
borhood of Maastricht. There were many 
random explosions of mammoth shells fired 
from giant artillery weapons like the V-3 
(Vergeltungswaffe), which had been ori- 
ginally designed by the Germans to fire on 
London from the Belgian and Dutch 
coasts. 5 

In organizing his Ordnance service, 
Colonel Warner favored the system adopted 
by Medaris of having two forward mainte- 
nance and supply groups. At the time 
Warner arrived in Maastricht, he had two 
group headquarters, the 59th and 60th, 
which he intended to use as forward groups. 
Shortly before XIII Corps became opera- 
tive, Warner asked 12th Army Group for 
an additional group to supervise his base 
operations. Since none was available, he had 
to revise his plans. Keeping the 59th as a 
forward group, he reorganized the 60th as 
a rear group. It was February of 1945 
before he was authorized his third mainte- 
nance and supply group, the 79th. At the 
time the big push began in February, his 
59th Ordnance Group had the job of sup- 
porting XIII and XIX Corps and certain 



Ninth Army troops; the 79th had the task 
of supporting the newly added XVI Corps, 
the bulk of the Ninth Army troops, and all 
troops operating with the British Army. In 
both cases support of corps followed the 
now familiar ETO pattern of two battalions 
behind each corps, one for direct third 
echelon, the other a backup support bat- 
talion with depot and heavy maintenance 
companies. 6 

Warner had no ammunition group. In- 
stead he used two ammunition battalions, 
one to operate forward ammunition sup- 
ply points, the other to operate the army 
ammunition depot. By mid-February his 
65th Ordnance Ammunition Battalion with 
six companies was operating a depot serv- 
ing all army troops as well as XIX Corps; 
his 335th Ordnance Ammunition Battalion 
(whose headquarters had been converted 
from a maintenance battalion headquar- 
ters) with four companies was operating 
ASP's behind XVI and XIII Corps as well 
as supplying all U.S. troops under the oper- 
ational control of the British Second Army. 
Both battalions were administered by the 
ammunition section of Warner's office, and 
in his opinion placed too heavy a load on 
the section. Consolidation under a group 
headquarters would have been an advan- 
tage; but no ammunition group headquar- 
ters was available. 7 



5 (i) Ibid., p. 100. (2) Conquer, pp. iio-ii. 
(3) Hist 300th Ord Maint Co AA, KCRC. (4) 
John Toland, Battle: The Story of the Bulge (New 
York: Random House, 1959), p. 352. (5) Leslie E. 
Simon, German Research in World War II (New 
York: John Wiley and Sons, 1947), pp. 191-93. 



(1) 1 2th Army Gp Daily Jnl Ord Sec, 13 Nov 
44. (2) Ltr, CG NUSA to CG 12th Army Gp, 
13 Nov 44, sub: Request for Ordnance Support 
and Inds; ltr, Eisenhower to CG 12th Army Gp, 
10 Jan 45, sub: Activation of Headquarters and 
Headquarters Detachment, 79th Ordnance Group, 
all in 1 2th Army Gp, 322 Ordnance Units. (3) 
Organization Br, G-4, Hq 12 th Army Gp, Notes 
on Service Troops, 18 Jul 45, Gen Nisley's File. 
(4) NUSA Ord Office History Period Ending 31 
January 1945, Ninth Army G-4 Rpts. 

7 ( 1 ) Hq Ninth US Army, Adm Order 7, 25 
Feb 45, in AGF Bd Rpt, ETO, No. C-Misc-60. 



LESSONS OF THE ROER AND THE ARDENNES 



321 



Certain types of Ordnance companies 
remained scarce, notably ammunition, 
depot, evacuation, heavy tank mainte- 
nance, and heavy automotive maintenance. 
For these there was active competition be- 
tween 1 2th Army Group and COMZ, 
group maintaining that COMZ could de- 
pend on civilian labor, and COMZ counter- 
ing with the argument that the civilian 
labor pool had run dry. 8 

Before the November offensive began in 
the Ninth Army sector, Warner received 
three companies that had an interesting 
history, one depot, the 333d, and two 
heavy tank maintenance, the 554th and 
538th. They had been training under 
heavy security wraps for eighteen months 
to support the American force that was 
part of the British Canal Defense Light proj- 
ect. When 1 2th Army Group, unable to 
find any use for the CDL tanks because of 
the fast-moving action in the fall and sum- 
mer of 1944, disbanded the project force 
on 4 November, two of the project's four 
battalions were converted to standard tank 
battalions and the rest to mine exploder 
battalions equipped with dozer tanks, 
Crabs, Centipedes, and mine exploders 
T1E1 and T1E3. The need for some 
means of dealing with mines became plain 
when the Allies began to invade Germany. 
On home soil the Germans reacted strong- 
ly with belts of mines, as well as crack 
panzer divisions. 9 

(2) Ltr, Warner to Ray, 7 Dec 45, no sub, AGF 
Ordnance Officer's Files, Organization of Army 
Ordnance. 

8 Ltrs from 12th Army Gp Comdr to CG ETO, 
18 Aug 44, sub: Ordnance Troops and 1st Ind, 
and to SHAEF, 19 Feb 45, sub: Allocation of 
Ordnance Service Troops, 12th Army Gp, 322 Ord- 
nance Units. 

°(i) Msg 1 2th Army Gp to CG COMZ, 28 
Oct 44, QX 22914, 12 AG 322 Ordnance Units. 
(2) 12th Army Gp 319. 1 G-4 Rpts (NUSA), No. 



Ninth Army's first offensive, in conjunc- 
tion with First Army, took place across the 
Roer plain — a right-angle triangle of about 
200 square miles bounded by the Wurm 
River, the Roer, and a line northeast from 
Aachen. On the Ninth's north flank, XIII 
Corps with two infantry divisions, the 84th 
and the I02d, and the 7th Armored Divi- 
sion in reserve, was to cross the Roer at 
Linnich. To the south, XIX Corps with 
the 29th and 30th Infantry Divisions and 
the 2d Armored Division was to seize a 
crossing of the Roer at Juelich. Once 
across the Roer, both corps were to push 
northeast to the Rhine at Duesseldorf . The 
attack was to be spearheaded by the 2d 
Armored Division. Its first job was to 
attack toward Linnich, seizing the high 
ground around Gereonsweiler, a mile or so 
short of Linnich, and holding it until XIII 
Corps was committed. Then the division 
was to move to the Juelich area and pre- 
pare to help the infantry make a river cross- 
ing there. 10 

Behind XIX Corps, which was to make 
the first and the main effort, was the 59th 
Ordnance Group's 48th Ordnance Battal- 
ion, with a medium maintenance company 
behind each infantry division, a medium 
automotive maintenance company to repair 
corps vehicles, a medium maintenance 
company for corps artillery, and a heavy 
tank maintenance company behind the 2d 

9, 14 Nov 44. (3) Ltr, Capt Marshall T. White, 
CO 538th Ord HM Co (Tk) to CG Ninth U.S. 
Army, 23 Nov 44, sub: Status of this Organization, 
and Inds, 12th Army Gp 322 CDL. (4) Final Hist 
Rpt, Armored Fighting Vehicles and Weapons 
Sec, Hq ETO, USA ... 6 June 1944 to 24 May 
1945 (hereafter cited as AFV&W Sec Rpt), pp. 2-3, 
ETOUSA & USFET/ Armored Fighting Vehicles & 
Weapons Sec files, KCRC. 

in For the tactical history of the battle of the Roer 
plain, see MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Cam- 
paign, pp. 497-574- 



322 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



Armored Division's own maintenance bat- 
talion. The 48th Ordnance Battalion had 
come to Ninth Army from First Army 
along with XIX Corps, which the battalion 
had been serving since its arrival in France 
in mid-June. 11 

For the coming offensive Ordnance prep- 
arations consisted mainly of inspecting ar- 
tillery tubes and replacing worn-out end 
connectors and duckbills on the 2d Armored 
Division's tanks. These preparations were 
dictated by terrain, weather, and experi- 
ence. Unlike the Hurtgen Forest, the 
Roer plain was tank country — a low, flat 
tableland of beet and cabbage fields that 
provided excellent fields of fire though 
little concealment. The fields were criss- 
crossed by roads connecting numerous 
small villages whose thick-walled stone 
houses would make splendid defensive posi- 
tions for the Germans. Not the least con- 
sideration was the mud created by Novem- 
ber rains. Without the duckbills, the nar- 
row-tracked American tanks would be road 
bound and would be unable to use the 
flanking tactics that were their best hope 
of defeating German armor. 12 

During the First Army breakthrough 
battles in July and August, the 2d Armored 
Division tankers had learned how to fight 
German Panther and Tiger tanks with 
their M4 Shermans. They knew that the 
ammunition of the 75-mm. gun with which 
most of the M4's were armed (a low- 
velocity shell about 13 inches long, as 
compared with the 28- to 30-inch high- 



velocity 75-mm. shell of the Panthers) 
would not penetrate at any range the thick 
frontal armor of the Panthers and Tigers, 
but could damage the sides and rear. 
Therefore the tankers had used wide en- 
circling movements, engaging the enemy's 
attention with one platoon of tanks while 
another platoon attacked from the rear. 
They had suffered appalling losses: be- 
tween 26 July and 12 August, for example, 
one of 2d Armored Division's tank bat- 
talions had lost to German tanks and 
assault guns 51 percent of its combat per- 
sonnel killed or wounded and 70 percent 
of its tanks destroyed or evacuated for 
fourth echelon repair. But by using flank- 
ing tactics and by enlisting artillery sup- 
port to fire directly on enemy tanks, the 
Americans had won their battles and even 
managed to inflict heavy losses on the 
Germans. 13 

By the time the Roer offensive began, 
the 2d Armored Division's firepower had 
been stepped up to some extent. About 
half the division's M4's were armed with 
the 76-mm. gun. 14 With this gun, firing 
the new but scarce tungsten-carbide-cored 
HVAP ammunition, the tankers could 
penetrate the front belly plate of the Pan- 
ther at 300 yards and at 200 yards had a 
sporting chance (about one to four) of 
penetrating the front slope plate. The 
division's tank destroyer battalion had also 
recently been equipped with the new M36 
destroyers mounting the 90-mm. gun. And 



"Hist, Hq & Hq Det & Med Det, 48th Ord 
Bn 1944. 

13 ( 1 ) XIX Corps After-Action Rpt, Sec IV, 
Ord Sec Jnl, Nov 44. (2) Lt Col E. A. Trahan, 
ed., A History of the Second United States Ar- 
mored Division, 1940 to 1946 (Atlanta, Ga. : Al- 
bert Love Enterprises, n.d.), ch. V, no pagination. 



13 ( 1 ) Ibid. (2) First Army Ordnance Service 
pamphlet, How to Kill a Panther (based on actual 
tests against captured Panther tanks), FUSA Ord 
Sec Monthly Rpt Jan 45, Incl 9 to app. Ill, KCRC. 

14 Armored School Research Report, Hell on 
Wheels in the Drive to the Roer (Fort Knox, Ky., 
May 1949), p. 12. This report is largely drawn 
from firsthand accounts by members of the 2d 
Armored Division. 



LESSONS OF THE ROER AND THE ARDENNES 



323 




Replacing Tracks on a Sherman Tank 



XIX Corps was strong in artillery support, 
with thirteen corps battalions of which 
three were allotted to the 2d Armored 
Division. There seemed to be no good 
reason why 2d Armored should not repeat 
the successes of its tank battles in France; 
that is, assuming it was not bogged down 
in the mud. At the Wurm River in Octo- 
ber one of the tank battalions had 63 per- 
cent of its M4's knocked out when they 
were slowed down by mud. Therefore, 
when the 2d Armored moved out onto the 
Roer plain on 16 November, three-fourths 
of the tanks had duckbills, and as added in- 
surance against being mired, all of them 
carried, lashed to their rear decks, bundles 
of slender nine-foot logs that could be 



placed under the tracks. 15 

General Simpson warned his Ninth 
Army staff to expect "one hell of a fight" ; 
but that was what a general was expected 
to say before an offensive. Actually the 
commanders were optimistic. They antici- 
pated only a delaying action on the Roer 
plain; most of them thought XIX Corps 
coi'ld reach the Roer in five days. What 
they did not know was that the Germans 
were determined not to allow a break- 
through, for they were already planning 
their December counteroffensive in the 
Ardennes. 



15 ( 1 ) How to Kill a Panther. (2) History Second 
Armored Division, ch. VI. (3) Hell on Wheels, p. 
n. (4) AFV&W Sec Rpt, p. 20. 



324 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 




M36 Tank Destroyers of 2d Armored Division on Dug-in Ramps near the 
Roer River. 



Moving out on 16 November, immedi- 
ately after an air effort in support of First 
and Ninth Armies, involving more than 
two thousand American and English heavy 
bombers — the largest close support bomb- 
ing of the war— XIX Corps gained up to 
two miles, capturing seven small towns. 
Only half of the 2d Armored Division, 
Combat Command B, was committed. Its 
tankers found they could traverse the mud 
in second gear, and soon the countryside 
was littered with the jettisoned logs. A 
few tanks were mired down. More were 
immobilized by mines, but they were not 
totally lost, for only the tank tracks were 
damaged, and they could be replaced in 
twentv-four hours. 16 



18 On 16 November, Combat Command B lost 14 
tanks to mines and only 6 to mud. Of these, 2 of 
the mired tanks were back in action before the 



By midafternoon the northernmost of 
Combat Command B's three task forces 
had captured Immendorf and the south- 
ernmost task force was entering Puffendorf, 
an important crossroads village. It was in 
the center, at Apweiler, the town nearest 
the high ground at Gereonsweiler, that the 
first serious resistance was encountered. 
Here the center task force ran into such 
violent antitank fire that it had to fall 
back and dig in for the night. The 
medium tank company lost fourteen of its 
sixteen tanks. No German tanks had yet 
been sighted, but throughout the night out- 
posts reported that tanks could be heard 
churning behind the enemy lines. 17 

day's end; and 8 victims of the mud or mines 
came back the next day. MacDonald, Siegfried Line 
Campaign, p. 530. 

17 Hell on Wheels, pp. 28-38. 



LESSONS OF THE ROER AND THE ARDENNES 



325 



The Tank Duels on the Roer Plain 

On the 17 th, shortly after dawn, as two 
tank battalions of the 2d Armored Divi- 
sion's 67th Armored Regiment were drawn 
up on a slope outside Puffendorf, ready to 
attack toward Gereonsweiler, the men of 
the 1 st Battalion saw long, high- velocity 
shells plowing furrows in the soft earth be- 
tween their tanks. Then out of the heavy 
morning mist came a German tank; two 
Tigers and four Panthers moved out of the 
woods on the western fringe of Gereons- 
weiler. There was a hit; one of the Sher- 
mans went up in flames, then another and 
another and another, as the Germans got 
the range. Soon the tanks of the 2d Bat- 
talion were also being thinned by murder- 
ous fire from the big tanks. The Germans, 
alarmed by the speed of the American ad- 
vance on the first day of the offensive, had 
brought up elements of the strong gth 
Panzer Division — veteran of the Russian 
front — to Gereonsweiler and were attack- 
ing at Puffendorf with a force estimated by 
2d Battalion at twenty to thirty Panthers 
and Tigers. 18 

The battle at Puffendorf was tank 
against tank: on both sides the infantry 
was pinned down by artillery fire. The 
Germans had the advantage of position: 
the Americans were hemmed in by sloping 
ground that made flanking movement im- 
possible. The Shermans fought back des- 
perately, stepping up to attempt to slug 
it out with their 75-mm. and 76-mm. guns, 
but the tanks that got close enough for their 
guns to be effective were quickly cut down 



by enemy fire. And when the American 
tankers did score direct hits on the Ger- 
man tanks, their shells ricocheted off the 
thick armor and went screaming into the 
air. One Sherman fired fourteen rounds 
of 76-mm. ammunition at a Tiger before 
it had any success at all — and the next 
moment was destroyed by another Tiger. 
When some companies were down to three 
or four tanks and ammunition was run- 
ning low, both battalions sent back for the 
90-mm. tank destroyers to come up. With 
the help of these "can-openers," as the 
tankers called the tank destroyers, the Ger- 
mans were beaten off, but at heavy cost to 
the two battalions in tanks and men. The 
second day's action on the Roer plain cost 
the 2d Armored Division 38 medium 
tanks, destroyed or knocked out, and 19 
light tanks; 56 men killed, 281 wounded, 
26 missing; and all but a few of these 
losses were incurred at Puffendorf. 19 

At the end of the day the American 
tanks were ordered to withdraw to the pro- 
tection of the stone buildings of Puffendorf. 
The Germans did not counterattack. 
They were exertmely short of infantry; 
their own tanks were having trouble get- 
ting through the sticky mud caused by con- 



18 ( 1 ) History 67th Armored Regiment (Bruns- 
wick, Germany, 1945) pp. 105, 200. (2) Total 
commitment of Panthers and Tigers on 17 Novem- 
ber was estimated by Ninth Army at 45. Conquer, 
P- 89. 



19 (1) History 67th Armored Regiment, pp. 106- 
08, 198-99. (2) Hell on Wheels, p. 45. (3) Mac- 
Donald, The Siegfried Line Campaign, p. 533. (4) 
Total German losses at Puffendorf are difficult to 
determine. 67th Armored Regiment's 1st Battalion 
claimed only 4 German tanks (2 to Shermans, 2 to 
tank destroyers). History 67th Armored Regiment, 
p. 107. Whether any of these were Mark IV's is not 
known. There were some Mark IV's at Puffendorf. 
AAR, 67th Armd Regt Jun-Dec 44. The 702d Tank 
Destroyer Battalion claimed 25 German tanks de- 
stroyed between 16 and 30 November, at a cost of 
only eight of the battalion's M36 (90-mm.) tank 
destroyers. See Maj M. L. Zimmerman, Report on 
90-mm. Gun Motor Carriage M-36, 16 Dec 44, p. 
6, Incl to Memo, Borden for OCO, 1 1 Jan 45, 
Folder C-555-S, ETO, 1 1 Jan 45, OHF. 



326 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



tinuing rains; and their commanders knew 
that the 2d Armored Division's Combat 
Command A, with the 66th Armored 
Regiment, had arrived on the evening of 
17 November. 20 But though the Germans 
failed for whatever reason to follow up 
their advantage, they stopped 2d Armored 
Division's attack cold for two days. Not 
until 20 November did enough ammuni- 
tion and reinforcements arrive to make 
possible a successful three-task-force attack 
on Gereonsweiler, preceded by intense artil- 
lery concentrations; and it was not until 
28 November, after six days of bitter, 
house-to-house fighting in Merzenhausen, 
that the 2d Armored Division reached the 
Roer. 

Artillery, according to The Siegfried 
Line Campaign, played an important part 
in the battle of the Roer plain. Artillery 
had pinned down the German infantry, 
and according to the Germans the weaken- 
ing of their infantry was responsible for 
their loss of ground. Artillery had also 
cost the Germans some tanks. And the 
big "heavies," the battalion of 8-inch guns 
and two battalions of 240-mm. howitzers 
under the 34th Field Artillery Brigade, 
played a spectacular role. With the help 
of observer planes furnished by the XXIX 
Tactical Air Command, they demolished 
two important enemy bridges over the 
Roer with a remarkably small expenditure 
of their scarce ammunition. 21 

The American tanks came off less credit- 
ably in the battle of the Roer plain. The 
tankers, deprived by the terrain and mud 



of their ability to outflank the enemy, by 
the congestion in the area of their usual 
artillery direct support, and by bad 
weather of much assistance from the air, 
had fought magnificently; but they had 
become disillusioned about the ability of 
their tanks to defeat German armor. 
"Our men no longer have as much confi- 
dence in their armor and guns as they 
used to have," one of the 2d Armored 
Division tankers said two days after the 
Roer plain offensive. Another said, "The 
Germans have been improving steadily ever 
since we met them in Sicily," and "Our 
Ordnance Department needs to get on the 
ball." 22 

This was not merely a momentary reac- 
tion from battle- weary men. After the 
war an Armored School report, prepared 
with the assistance of 2d Armored Division 
tank commanders who had participated in 
the action, stated that the most important 
factor in the set-back at Puffendorf on 17 
November — "the biggest tank battle in 2nd 
Armored experience" — was "the inferiority 
of our tanks in guns, armor, and maneu- 
verability." 23 

At the time of the Roer plain offensive 
the tankers had been impressed by the 
superiority of the wide German tank tracks, 
which barely sank in the ground, while the 
American tracks made trenches. The 
tankers complained that the Shermans 
were too slow to get quickly out of the way 
of antitank fire (as the light tanks could) ; 
that their suspensions, of the volute spring 
type, adversely affected maneuverability 



"Hell on Wheels, p. 47, and app. II. 

21 ( 1 ) MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Cam- 
paign, p. 562. (2) Hell on Wheels, app. II. (3) 
Histories, 34th FA Brigade; 702d TD Bn; 265th 
and 256th FA Bns; and 211th FA Group. (4) 
Conquer, p. 94. 



22 Interview with seven officers and men of 2d 
Armored Division, in Ninth Army Operations IV, 
Offensive in November, Part Two, ch. 15, pp. 253- 

54- 

23 Hell on Wheels, pp. iii, 5, 56. 



LESSONS OF THE ROER AND THE ARDENNES 



327 



( most considered the torsion bar suspension 
superior in maneuverability and reliabil- 
ity ) ; that their silhouette was too high ; 
and that their armor was not much better 
than that of the tank destroyers. Above 
all, the tankers complained of their guns. 
They had seen their 75-mm. and 76-mm. 
shells bounce off the front plate of the 
Panthers as well as the Tigers — "like hit- 
ting them with a pea-shooter." The 76- 
mm. gun was better than the 75-mm. but 
did not have enough velocity to keep the 
tank out of the range of the more powerful 
German tank guns, which were effective at 
3,000 to 3,500 yards. At practical ranges 
the 76-mm., even with HVAP ammuni- 
tion, would not successfully penetrate the 
glacis plate of the Panther. "The guns 
are ineffective, the crews know it, and it 
affects their morale," the tank commanders 
stated. They concluded that the British 
had the right idea when they threw away 
the 75-mm. guns on their lend-lease Sher- 
mans and mounted their 17-pounders. 
The 2d Armored Division tankers believed 
that their own Shermans could easily 
mount a 90-mm. gun. 24 

Some assessment of the 90-mm. as an 
antitank gun was possible after the com- 
mitment of the 702d Tank Destroyer Bat- 
talion's M36 tank destroyers in the 
November Roer plain battles. The shell 
of the 90-mm. gun would ricochet off the 
7-inch front armor plate of the Tiger tank 
at 3,000 to 3,500 yards; to be effective, 
the tank destroyers had either to get closer 
or attack the more vulnerable sides, and 



this fact the enemy evidently knew, for he 
had usually managed to keep his Tigers 
at a distance and expose only their heavily 
armored fronts. 25 But to say that the 90- 
mm. would not defeat the frontal armor 
of the Tiger is not to condemn it as an 
antitank gun. The Tiger, cumbersome 
and underpowered for its great weight, was 
mainly valuable when the Germans were 
in a commanding position, as at Puffendorf, 
dug in on the defensive. Against the Pan- 
ther, which most experts considered the 
Germans' best tank, the 90-mm. gun was 
far more effective than the 76-mm. In 
the tank battles on the Roer plain during 
November, the 67th Armored Regiment 
with three battalions of Shermans could 
claim only five Panthers; the 702d Tank 
Destroyer Battalion armed with 90-mm. 
guns claimed fifteen. 28 

Not only on the Roer plain, but to a 
lesser extent in the Hurtgen Forest, where 
the wooded, boggy terrain kept the tanks 
road-bound, was there growing frustration 
with the performance of the Shermans, 
especially those with the 75-mm. gun. 27 
And in the Battle of the Bulge, one division 
commander's wish for a tank with arma- 
ment to cope adequately with the German 
Panthers and Tigers was echoed "prayer- 



24 ( 1 ) Interviews, Ninth Army Operations IV, 
Offensive in November. (2) AGF Board Rpt, ETO, 
No. 572, Proposed Changes in Organization and 
Equipment, 28 Jan 45, 4-3. 572/45. (3) How to 
Kill a Panther. 



25 History 702d Tank Destroyer Bn, Jun-Aug, 
Sep-Dec 44; Jnl 17-21 Nov. 

28 ( 1 ) A/A Rpts 67th Armored Regiment and 
702d TD Bn. (2) For opinions on the superiority 
of the Germans' Panthers over their Tigers see: 
B. H. Liddell Hart, The Tanks, II, 455 and app. 
V; Col. G. B. Jarrett, "The Combat Efficiency of 
Tanks — Can It Be Expressed Numerically?", Ar- 
mored Cavalry Journal, LIX, 2 (March-April 
'QS ). P- 95 and Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 
322. 

27 MacDonald, The Siegfried Line Campaign, pp 
421-24. For losses in the Hurtgen Forest from 
mines, mud, and antitank guns (German armor 
was not committed here to any great extent) see 
pp. 448-63. 



328 



ON BEACHHEAD AND BATTLEFRONT 



fully or profanely — wherever the enemy 
panzer divisions appeared out of the 
Ardennes hills and forests." 28 Lacking 
such armament, the tankers stalked the 
German tanks, mane